Killers Anonymous is the kind of film you can get a read on just from a quick glance at its IMDb page: a B-movie somehow starring an A-lister (or multiple) that sounds generic and is generally just a mess.
The narrative essentially boils down to therapy time with a group of assassins. Sounds fun, right? Killers Anonymous is a support group, of sorts, for hitmen and women alike to confide in one another and express their troubles. The group is led by the collected, stoic Joanna (MyAnna Buring) who is forced to de-escalate a tense and hostile meeting following a U.S senator’s (Sam Hazeldine) assassination, for which everyone becomes a suspect.
The potential is there for Killers Anonymous to be a gleefully self-aware riff on the hitman movie; hitmen are characters that have populated cinema for decades now – we’ve pretty much seen every take on every story that can exist within that world – and the premise should lend itself well to a fun, creative twist on the material.
While the film doesn’t exactly take itself seriously, the tone of the piece feels stuck at a crossroads, with director Martin Owen never really certain of what he wants this film to be: is it winking at the audience or is it playing it straight? As a result, the whole thing feels unfocused.
We have a comic premise and larger-than-life performances with the most serious dumps of exposition, character interactions and camera-work/lighting that jumps between aggressive neon and muddy greys. It’s as if Owen and co-writers Seth Johnson and Elizabeth Morris kept changing their minds about what where they wanted to take the project. The inevitable result is an inconsistent tone and a tiresome feel.
In addition, it’s as narratively jumbled as it is tonally; the film attempts to maintain a veil of intrigue throughout its runtime, in a manner similar to The Hateful Eight – dubious characters keep secrets from one another, things not being what they seem, etc. But it all feels pointless because the characterisation is near non-existent; we don’t know these characters, let alone care for them, so the reveals fall incredibly flat. Moreover, some of the decisions are just completely nonsensical. The screenplay makes choices that are meant to be surprising, but they don’t work because they’re illogical and out of left field.
It’s just an utterly bizarre approach: the characters themselves are written to be quite serious yet are played as caricatures, and nothing about them – or the actors – works in the slightest. The writing is frankly inane: when it goes for comedy, it’s cringe-worthy; when it’s trying to be cool, it’s try-hard; when it’s to develop a thread, it’s heavy-handed; and when it’s supposed to be emotional, I feel nothing. The film is too confused about itself, coming across as rushed and mawkish.
The film quickly becomes repetitive too, piling on one hitman monologue after another. The thing is: we do not care. Owen is clearly trying to channel his inner-Tarantino, desperate to recreate his enrapturing dialogue and character interactions; The Hateful Eight only worked because the writing was so sharp and there was something to latch onto. Killers Anonymous is devoid of that. It’s devoid of anything, in fact. The action is frenetic and so chopped to shit that it’s difficult to make out what’s going on. It’s perhaps the best encapsulation of the experience Killers Anon offers: something supposedly kinetic that is just so jarring and choppy that it becomes incoherent and tactless.
It’s just boring to watch, really – dare I even say painful. It’s a shame because the potential was clearly there for this to be a fun, witty riff on the genre; it just lacks the energy, smarts, humour and effort to achieve that. Oh, don’t even get me started on Gary Oldman and Tommy Flanagan, who really should be doing better… And Jessica Alba in her single (yes, one) scene. Why? Were they really that desperate for a pay check? Are times that tough? It seems so.
Killers Anonymous releases in cinemas August 28th and on Digital Download + DVD & Blu-ray from 26th August