March 16, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: KILLERS (2014)

Starring Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Mie Kurokawa. Directed by The Mo Brothers. (2014, 137 min).
Well Go USA

Though the Blu-Ray cover touts this film is “from the producers of The Raid,” don’t expect the same kinetic, bone-breaking action. Instead, Killers is a dark (sometimes darkly comic) psychological thriller more akin to The Silence of the Lambs and Kevin Costner’s cheerfully twisted - and woefully underrated - Mr. Brooks.

Killers is one of those movies you’re almost ashamed to admit you enjoyed, mainly due to its lurid premise, its willingness to wallow in depravity and (perhaps most disturbing of all) how skillfully it manages to manipulate its audience into empathizing with murderers.

Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) is a handsome, charismatic Japanese executive who also happens to be a demented serial killer, luring young women into his basement and torturing them to death. He records his victims at the moment of death and posts the videos on the internet, which are eventually seen by Bayu (Oka Antara), a disgraced Indonesian journalist who once tried (and failed) to expose the criminal dealings of Dharma, a big-shot businessman. Estranged from his wife and daughter, Bayu’s still obsessed with bringing Dharma down.

Even for serial killers, it ain't a bath
without Mr. Bubble.
One night, through sheer luck, Bayu manages to fight off and kill two thugs planning to rob and rape him. Inspired by the Nomura's videos, Bayu films his attackers’ dying moments and posts them online. This impresses Nomura enough to reach out to Bayu, encouraging him to continue killing. But unlike Nomura, who kills at random, Bayu begins targeting those who have it coming, such as Dharma’s sleazy lawyer (who also happens to be a pedophile). Meanwhile, Nomura befriends Hisae (Rin Takanashi), a struggling shopkeeper whom he witnesses trying to put her autistic brother out of his misery by shoving him into traffic. The incident intrigues Nomura enough to insinuate himself into their lives. This is the most interesting part of the story. We know he sympathizes with her, but his state-of-mind is so twisted that we know things will end badly for everyone involved. Yet, somewhat perversely, there are moments when Nomura becomes as vengeful as Bayu, sucking the audience into rooting for him.

Of course, Namura and Baya end up meeting face-to-face, a confrontation which is bloody (if not a bit contrived). But through its own twisted logic, this is the only way things can end in order for the audience to walk away with a shred of dignity.

Killers features outstanding performances, especially by Kitamura and Antara, who embody these characters so effectively that we can be sickened by their actions, even while a small part of us sometimes understands them. Despite a lot of bloody, disturbing violence, none of it seems overtly gratuitous, rendering such scenes all-the-more unnerving. However, this cat-and-mouse game does go on a bit too long, resulting in a final act which threatens to push the credibility envelope a bit too far.

For the most part, though, Killers leads us on a dark, twisted journey which has us questioning, not only the extreme moral ambiguity of its lead characters, but ourselves for even being able to - however briefly - identify with them.


KITTEN CONSENSUS: being scratched behind the ears

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