The concept of the talkative hitman certainly wasn’t invented by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction, but he definitely popularised a certain type of affable murderer in mainstream American cinema. Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield talk nonchalantly about fast food in France and foot massages like they are off to pick up flat-pack furniture from IKEA, even when they are actually revealed to be on their way to threaten (and potentially kill) people. Their almost banal conversations are what makes their characters so fascinating. The dialogue between them is narratively inconsequential and yet utterly compelling.
25 years later and we have Tarantino partly to blame for Martin Owen’s Killers Anonymous. In this British action film, an underground support group for murderers attracts the most garrulous group of killers ever assembled. Unfortunately, rather than revelling in the mundanity of everyday life, they are all obsessed with murder and never stop going on about it. When they aren’t dragging out stories about their first kills, they are indulging in cod philosophy about why they like murdering so much, or threatening to murder each other. The rest of the dialogue is taken up with needlessly complicated exposition that tries to create an Agatha Christie-esque mystery out of a room of painfully obvious (and usual) suspects.
For a film centred on a gathering of homicide addicts, their justifications for killing are disappointingly uninspired, too. Sexual abuse, morbid fascination and gangster peer pressure are pretexts for a few, but the script (co-written by Martin Owen with Seth Johnson and Elizabeth Morris) never shocks or surprises in its choices, even though the safety blanket of its satirical tone and its ridiculous narrative set-up would grant the film creative licence to be as outrageous as it dared to be.
In a sub-Pulp Fiction early scene, The Man (Gary Oldman) gets mad as a lorry with Jade (Jessica Alba) for her insipid and long-winded excuse as to why she was unable to finish off a US Senator she was contracted to kill. In what are essentially cameo appearances, the lack of interest and artistic value is evident in the simultaneous overacting and indifference of both actors. Jessica Alba, last seen on the big screen playing herself in the disastrously received Entourage spin-off film and pole-dancing for what felt like two hours in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, clearly knows this isn’t a job to kill for as a bandanna-wearing lesbian hitwoman and looks desperate to be killed off as soon as possible. After a fantastic 35-year career, Oldman now seems unable to speak in any believable accent and spends the rest of the film in a deckchair on top of a building watching action that is taking place almost exclusively indoors through binoculars.
The rest of the ensemble cast do the best they can with their paper-thin characters to varying degrees of success. Rhyon Nicole Brown is sufficiently moody and mysterious as Alice, and solid character actor Tim McInnerny is dependably creepy as a deadly doctor in the Harold Shipman mould, but Elliot James Langridge and Michael Socha suffer with the cardboard cutout characters they have to play and are unable to provide any depth to Ben and Leandro. Amusingly, Tommy Flanagan’s Markus occasionally sounds like ex-junkie Jacqueline McCafferty from The Limmy Show. If he had started talking about how he’d turned his life around after spending three years on heroin, it would have at least provoked an unintentional laugh, but unfortunately his character is relentlessly angry and humourless.
Sadly, the film’s mediocrity extinguishes any potential joy that could come from it being disastrously offensive or inept. The climatic action sequence, through a combination of hackneyed deaths and awful CGI blood is devoid of any excitement, and the final scene’s attempt at implying that history is set to repeat itself is as tired as Oldman’s agent must feel. Fundamentally, the central conceit at the heart of Killers Anonymous just doesn’t work, aiming for comic-book irreverence, it just ends up seeming confused and ultimately a little pointless.
Digital Download Release Date: 26th August
Theatrical Release Date: 28th August
Director: Martin Owen
Cast: Gary Oldman, Jessica Alba, Suki Waterhouse, Tommy Flanagan, Tim McInnerny, Rhyon Nicole Brown, Michael Socha, MyAnna Buring, Elliot James Langridge & Sadie Frost
Distributor: Bird Box Distribution (Theatrical) & The Movie Partnership (Digital Release)
Digital Platforms: iTunes, Sky Store, Amazon Video, Google Play, Xbox Video Store, The Playstation Store, Rakuten TV, BT TV, Vubiquity & Talk Talk
Runtime: 95 mins