There is no greater cinematic sin than wasted potential. Unfortunately, there persists a well-trodden path for conceptual genius and spot-on casting which has an end product that is doomed to eternal cinematic damnation. A biblical fate which director Martin Owen’s latest release, Killers Anonymous, has narrowly avoided – but only just.
Billed as a crime thriller which follows a mysterious group of killers who attend a murderous Alcoholics Anonymous-style weekly support group, the film promises a cerebral, stylish, action-packed thrill ride with a star-studded cast, but ultimately fails to deliver on them.
Starting with the film’s casting, which has made for a laughably cynical and misguided marketing campaign. Given that three of the main billed cast members in the promotional material – Gary Oldman, Suki Waterhouse, and Jessica Alba – only feature in what are effectively glorified cameos in the finished film.
By far the most egregious example is Oldman who, despite getting slightly more screen time, seemingly exists purely for his “Academy Award winner” poster caption and could be easily removed from the film entirely without any plot ramifications whatsoever.
In terms of the overall plot, the film does succeed, at least on a basic level, in telling a compelling story with enough twists and turns to keep the events unfolding on screen as engaging as possible. However, any successes are undermined by the plot’s convoluted nature and tonally-confused ending. Whilst there has always been a long history of thrillers with surprising end reveals, the plot fails to lay any of the groundwork required for such a drastic left-turn causing the ending to stray dangerously close to ‘jumping the shark’ territory.
There are also similar issues with the relatively uninspired characters themselves. Despite the potential that a group of serial killers affords, they are mostly written as caricatures of real-life murderers and as a result can feel particularly one-dimensional and hollow at times.
Despite this, the performances contained within are remarkably good and the moments of tension between the group are electric. In particular, Tim McInnery’s creepy Harold Shipman-esque medical murderer Calvin, and Michael Socha’s sensitive ex-Triad Leandro, are impressive stand-out performances.
The film’s strengths are sturdily reinforced throughout by Håvard Helle’s excellent cinematography, which does a fantastic job of keeping the entire production afloat. His near-constant striking neon-lit shots are a delight to watch and the colourful retro aesthetic of the group’s kitsch meeting place is essential to allow the character’s long monologues to remain engaging.
In fact, given the acting talent delivering them, the monologues are themselves the greatest indicator of the film’s wasted potential. They do a great job of providing genuine flairs of writing brilliance, but ultimately struggle to support the crushing weight of the film’s numerous plot issues.
It must be remarked that Killers Anonymous is certainly not as truly rotten as some of its cinematic-sinning purgatory-dwelling compatriots. Despite its flaws, it is well-acted and stylish daydream of promise, but unfortunately still one that is trapped inside a swirling nightmare of plot confusion and banality.
Killers Anonymous is now in cinemas and also available on Digital Download and Home Entertainment.