Killers Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto
Written by Timo Tjahjanto and Takuji Ushiyama
2014, 137 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray/DVD released on April 7th, 2015
Kazuki Kitamura as Nomura
Oka Antara as Bayu
Luna Yara as Dina
Ray Sahetapy as Dharma
Even with such relatively few credits to his name, Timo Tjajhanto is one of those filmmakers whose name now makes my ears perk up and my horror heart go aflutter. While I have yet to see his feature Macabre (co-directed with Kimo Stamboel and credited as The Mo Brothers…which has always sounded to me like the title of a short-lived '90s sitcom), the shorts he contributed to The ABCs of Death ("L Is For Libido") and V/H/S 2 ("Safe Haven") – both easily the best entries in those respective anthologies – have more than proven that he's a guy with a twisted creative mind, as well as the technical prowess to bring his dark visions to life.
In Tokyo, a wealthy Japanese businessman named Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) moonlights as a brutal and methodical serial killer of women. He records his torture-murders and uploads them to a pay-per-view website where they are viewed by the likes of Bayu (Oka Antara), a family man and failing journalist in Jakarta, Indonesia. Bayu's career and marriage have tanked after his efforts to expose corrupt politician Dharma (Ray Sahetapy) backfired and led to his reputational ruin. One night, a harrowing attempted assault goes wrong, leaving two men dead and Bayu holding a smoking gun. He decides to upload cell phone footage of the attack to the web, catching Nomura's eye and starting a kindred relationship between the two based on bloodshed.
The acting is decent for the most part in Killers, though I am apt to judge foreign actors a little less harshly than English-speaking ones just because I realize some things may get muddled in translation. However, the film's most glaring issue arises about midway through the film when the two killers first actually "meet," albeit through Internet video chat, and start to inexplicably speak to each other in English. It is implied that neither speak the other's native tongue, and while I thought the English device was an interesting way to get around that (not unlike the use of English in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds), I would not have found it entirely implausible that someone as educated as Nomura would be fluent in Bayu's language. That could even have led to some character-deepening anecdote about a murder he had committed in Indonesia years prior that gave him a taste for killing, or something like that. As it stands, not only is there really no explanation as to why these guys both speak English, but their speaking of it is so distractingly bad that it still requires English subtitles. While the two actors do their best to keep to their characters, it's hard to take Nomura's smooth psychopath seriously when all his L's come out sounding like R's (so "killer" comes out like, "kirruuuur").
While the film does have some fun action set pieces, you can't help but compare them to other, more iconic ones from superior films. A pivotal shootout in the back of a cab, while impressively filmed, will remind you of that mind-blowing 360-degree knife fight in I Saw the Devil, and a lengthy, dozens-against-one chase scene down a hotel hallway will bring back that classic corridor battle in Oldboy. The vigilante killer story elements will also likely seem familiar to fans of TV's Dexter. These aren't necessarily failures or shortcomings on the filmmakers' part, but they do keep Killers from feeling wholly original.
Upon first viewing, the 137-minute run time didn't bother me, although it didn't engage me enough to make this film a start-to-finish repeat watch (unlike I Saw the Devil, which runs even longer but is constantly mesmerizing). Killers is good enough that Timo Tjajhanto's name still gets me excited, but I do look forward to another project of his that gets back to the stomach-turning, perhaps supernatural roots of his earlier shorts.