Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sundance ’14: Killers

Presumably, this is not what Al Gore had in mind when he invented the internet. A Jakarta journalist obsessed with the death videos posted online by a Tokyo serial killer starts following suit when he crosses into vigilante slayings.  Soon thereafter, they strike up an unlikely IM dialogue, but it is not what you would call a friendly rivalry. Things will get bloody in the Mo Brothers (Timo Tjahjanto & Kimo Stromboel)’s Killers, which screens during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Bayu’s unsuccessful attempts to bring down a well-heeled, politically connected sexual predator short-circuited his career and indirectly caused his separation from his wife. Watching the videos posted by Shuhei Nomura only further stokes his anger management issues. It all finally boils over during an attempted mugging (and worse).  Suddenly, Bayu is in the Bronson business.

In contrast, the sadistic and precise Nomura is a cold blooded killer.  He gets sick satisfaction from killing, but he plans each prolonged murder out to the last detail.  However, Nomura will make an uncharacteristic mistake or two, making their months of correspondence a rather chaotic time for them both.

Frankly, Killers might be too much even for veteran midnight movie patrons. Some of the sequences with Nomura are downright scarring, as well as scary.  Nevertheless, the Mo Brothers certainly know how to stage a hyper-violent action sequence.  For instance, Bayu has a hotel getaway melee scene that ranks with the hallway fight scene in Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy (the real one, not the cheap remake). About as tense as genre films can get, Killers is an unrelenting white knuckle viewing experience from the first frame up to the last.

Despite its unseemly milieu, Killers features a top drawer cast working at the peak of their powers.  Japanese TV heartthrob Kauzki Kitamura is disturbingly cold and creepy as Nomura, while Oka Antara’s Bayu broods like nobody’s business. However, the finely nuanced Rin Takanashi (so exquisitely vulnerable in Kiarostami Like Someone in Love) gives the film some heart and soul as the prospective victim who starts to awaken emotions in Nomura (that is definitely one of those goods news-bad news kind of things).

With Killers, the Mo Brothers definitely announce themselves as adrenaline charged filmmakers to be reckoned with.  Unfortunately, long stretches of the film are just no fun to watch. Brutal but effective, Killers is specifically recommended for experienced cult film connoisseurs when it screens again today (1/21) and Thursday (1/23) in Park City, as well as this Saturday (1/25) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.