Thursday, 28 January 2010

Review...Tony: London Serial Killer

Tony, London serial killer follows a couple of days in the life of the titular Tony, a depressingly desperate and lonely man who's meek and often bizarre behaviour sees him isolated from the world around him. Tony's day consists of feeble attempts at socialising with random strangers who frankly ignore him as if their life depends upon it, something that is not that far from the truth, and filling the rest of his day watching violent action movies on video. When he's not being utterly blocked out by everyone he meets he's usually being bullied or being taken advantage of but underneath the social outcast and misfit that is presented to the world is a man who's dark nature and somewhat sociopathic tendencies are unleashed in brief moments of brutal violence.

This début film from director Gerard Johnson is an interesting affair. It's been described by sight and sound as being “If Mike Leigh remade Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” and frankly the parallels are quite obvious. The world that Tony inhabits is a depressingly slum like, dirty and decaying place in which he kills his day, desperately trying to interact in one form or another with other people around him.

Played in creepy style by Peter Ferdinando, there's an air of desperation about Tony, his utter inability to relate to anyone, even, and to some extent especially, those rare individuals who do extend a hand of friendship to him, is quite disconcerting and often quite saddening. His genophobic trait clashes with his desire for affection to the point where his previous victim has become his apparently platonic bed partner.

The story is certainly a bleak one and though it does have moments of humour, the prevailing atmosphere is one of unhinged despair interspersed with strangely detached moments of violence.
However it all feels slightly off the wall, possibly due to a few of the supporting performances being a bit overplayed, however the film is Tony's point of view and maybe this could be seen as being his skewed point of view colouring the world we see.

The character of Tony does rather pander to cliché somewhat. His archetypal paedophile look does in my mind take away from the fact that this is a rather unfortunate character that we could have some degree of sympathy for. It just seems a little easy to present this kind of characature of the bullied, socially inept recluse with a penchant for violent movies when possibly a more normal character would fit better in the expected realist world that has been attached to this movie,

a world that I couldn't convince myself to buy into. However... if you shed the realist ideal then the movie can work much better for you in my opinion. Other than in any more than an aesthetic level this film really doesn't go there anyway . The gritty, dirty world is a brilliant locale in which Tony, the image of Mary Whitehouse's video nasties viewer, exists and Tony seems usefully placed here as being as alien as he is, even in this environment. The victims he takes are all guilty enough of trying to hurt or slight Tony that in some respects their deaths are not too traumatic and this is where Tony splits from McNaughtons Henry. Henry's actions are utterly incomprehensible and the murders he commits are whimsical in motivation, he wants to, so he does. Tony on the other hand is more motivated by the actions of others and this is why he doesn't have the same resonance as the utterly cold Henry.
This said Tony, London serial Killer is a fine first effort by it's director and has an engaging performance by it's lead. I suggest ignoring the comparisons to Henry as it's similarities really don't go far beyond an aesthetic, the realist angle has also been overplayed and I don't think it fairs well against that expectation. If you can jettison the Henry baggage then this does have a fair bit to offer in part in the form of a very dark sense of humour that runs through the grim and uncomfortable atmosphere which comes with not only the murderous activities of Tony but with being inside his utterly, desperately dysfunctional life.
The film itself is nicely shot and makes full use its grim locales to create the atmosphere of decay and desolation in which Tony seems utterly lost in, also the music, which is fairly sparse in this film is rather hypnotic and reflects the tone of the film nicely in it's minimalist unshowey approach.
Tony is released in the UK in cinemas on the 5th of February and on DVD on the 8th getting it's region 1 release on the 6th of April.

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