Killers (Sundance 2014 review)

Killers (Sundance 2014 review)
8 10

PLOT: Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura )- a serial killer based in Tokyo who's been murdering women and posting videos of the deaths to YouTube,- notices a similar video posted by a man in Jakarta named Bayu (Oka Antara). A milquetoast journalist, Bayu's killing was in self defence, but an odd sense of blood lust found him posting the murders online. Nomura- who believes he's found his soul mate- starts tormenting Bayu online, trying to get him to embrace his new found murderous streak, a temptation the normally kind journalist finds difficult to resist.

REVIEW: KILLERS is easily the best serial-killer thriller to come out since I SAW THE DEVIL. Like that film, it's a genre-bender, forcing us to empathize with a man whose skin we'd never want to crawl into, and showing how fine a line can sometimes separate a good man from a bad one.

Coming from the same Indonesian studio that financed THE RAID (Gareth Evans is an executive producer) KILLERS is infused with the same kind of energy. The Mo Brothers are actually Timothy Tjahjanto & Kimo Stromboel, with the former co-directing the 'Safe Haven” sequence from V/H/S 2. As twisted as that mini-film was, this one just may have it beat.

Serial killer thrillers are often a dime-a-dozen, but is while the film is certainly among the more violent entries to play Sundance, the focus on character distinguishes it from the pack. Until the last act Nomura and Bayu's stories are only loosely related, with Nomura's half of the film being in Japanese and set in Tokyo, while Bayu's Jakarta-set part is in Indonesian. Nomura's part is more consistently scary as we follow him around Tokyo stalking victims and disposing of them in brutally long sequences that push boundaries. Usually, I'd never be able to handle a movie like this, but the storyline is so involving and the tension amped up so tortuously high I wasn't able to take my eyes off the screen.

While Bayu's half of the film is less horrific and violent (although it does have it's moments) his storyline is the more compelling one as we watch this man sink deeper and deeper into a murderous hole. Unlike Nomura, he targets those he thinks deserve to die, including a pedophile lawyer and a crooked business magnate, but the line becomes increasingly grey. Antara is startlingly good, and also has a great part in THE RAID 2, where he comes close (close) to stealing scenes from Iko Uwais. Here, he gets to be the star and makes for an appealing anti-hero, keeping him likable even when his decisions are murderous.

For most of the film, Nomura and Bayu only occasionally interact, speaking English to each other on web chats, but when they're finally brought together, the wait pays off and leads to an explosive conclusion that's hard to shake. With this, The Mo Brothers certainly establish themselves as major names in international genre cinema, and whatever they put out next, you can bet it'll be another genre-bender like KILLERS. Between this and THE RAID 2, Indonesian company Merantau films is quickly becoming one of my favorite studios. The production values are consistently high, with stunning cinematography and great music, showing the care that's been put into what most American studios would dismiss as disposable schlock. It's not a stretch to think that with a few years, they'll all but dominate genre cinema worldwide.



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