Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
Tony is a quiet man with some serious social issues. He is living off of a state funded job seeking allowance and spends most of his time watching old action movies on his VHS player. But when someone enters his world that seems to change his surroundings, our Tony shows what he is really made of.
Is it good movie?
It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. As is the case with Tony, a small film from writer/director Gerard Johnson. Tony (Peter Ferdinando) is a quiet sort who lives alone in a small, dingy apartment. He spends his time watching old action movies on his VHS player, and rarely deals with the outside world. And while Tony seems to be treated badly by others who sense his vulnerable disposition, there is something very dark lurking underneath. We learn about his hobby when he meets a couple of drug dealing kids whom he brings home. In the fashion of the cult classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and some real life monsters such as Jeffrey Dahmer (without the cannibalism), we find that he is a killer himself.
While Tony isn’t nearly as bloody or graphic as Henry, it certainly is disturbing. The manners in which the murders occur seem very real, and surprisingly effective. Aside from the way Tony gets rid of the bodies, there is little blood or gore. It seems strangulation is a favorite for him. And it also seems that many of his victims are not all that nice of people. From junkies to a television license officer to a man Tony picks up at a gay bar, all of these men seem to threaten our “hero” in some way, shape or form. That is not to say that he is some kind of Dexter wannabe, he just seems to choose people that give him cause to worry. It may not be an original approach, yet for this dark little gem with hidden moments of black comedy, there is a strange sense of humor and thrills. Yet it is almost always surprising where the tension comes from, it tends to sneak up at you during some of the more awkward and mundane moments.
Johnson tells his story is a very subdued way. We follow Tony as if watching a documentary. We are introduced to his bleak life in a very honest way. I found the lack of bells and whistles to be a rare treat. Much like the title character’s life, this is a very raw and unpretentious look at the man and the monster inside. My one real complaint is that by the end of the film, which runs barely over an hour, it seems like we are finally getting to know Tony. I’m not sure if it would’ve helped the film to see him get caught, in fact, I doubt it. But really, I was left feeling a bit cheated as I think there was more story to tell. While the film is short, it treads along at a very precise and slow pace, but it really starts to pick up steam near the end. I guess in a way, the quick and abrupt ending made sense in regards to the style and atmosphere created. This is just a slice of life character study, with no real answer or conclusion.
As for Tony himself, Ferdinando is all too real and very scary. He is continually bullied by those around him and he always seems to take it. But once he corners one of his victims, he does it in a believable way. This is what I would expect a serial killer to look and act like. All the subtleties in his performance really help make the film as potent as it is. At times, I felt sympathy for his madman and that is not only credit to the script, he gives a frighteningly sincere performance.
I also have to mention the striking score which drifts throughout. Much like the dirty and cold world where Tony lives, the music by Matt Johnson and The The seems dark and sad. A couple times the music layers over the dialogue. One scene involves Tony and his all too trusting neighbor played by Vicky Murdock. After she begins to leave, the two continue talking and we don’t hear a word of it, just the score. There is no violence and nothing scary, but somehow, the fact that we can’t hear what the two are saying seems a bit unsettling. It is a brave move, much like the film in general, but I’m not exactly sure how I feel about it. But the fact that I am still thinking about it says something pretty positive I suppose. This was an eerie score indeed, even when it seemed to pay a bit of “homage” to John Carpenter’s Halloween… or maybe that was just me.
Video / Audio
Tony may not be for everyone. This serial killer drama, set in a lower class area of London is very subtle and grim. There is a real sense of horror here, thanks to a very strong performance by Peter Ferdinando. Both he and Johnson really create an odd yet human monster that seems to attack when threatened. This is not nearly as shocking as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or Man Bites Dog, but it certainly has some of that dark and sinister charm. Although I think the story is bigger than the very short running time allows it to be.