Though it doesn’t bring much new to the table, this brisk, gritty thriller gets the job done.
Killerman – an action-thriller starring the recently single Liam Hemsworth – is the type of movie you’d feel especially proud of yourself for finding after aimlessly browsing through Netflix. No, it’s not exactly a must-see – this is the type of mid-quality, low-budget fare that might catch your eye while channel-surfing and keep you engaged through a few commercial breaks. It’s fine. And that’s fine.
It is odd that, for a movie called Killerman, it takes almost a half-hour before this thing serves up an action sequence. But this restraint is one of writer/director Malik Bader’s many smart choices, providing ample time to get to know the lowlifes we’re following.
There’s Mo Diamond (Hemsworth), a jeweler and money launderer, and his partner “Skunk” (Emory Cohen). The extended prologue gives us a chance to see the ins and outs of Mo’s extra-legal profession, and while he and his partner have dreams of setting up their own operation, they’re stuck slumming it for Skunk’s uncle, a well-connected mobster.
When that action sequence finally does arrive, it’s a propulsive, exciting and an all-around well-staged set-piece involving crooked cops and drug dealers, with Mo and Skunk caught in the middle. But its real purpose is to facilitate Killerman’s defining twist: the chase climaxes in a nasty car accident, and Mo takes a serious head injury. When he wakes up in the hospital, his mind is blank and his memory is gone.
That’s right: this movie is basically Good Time meets The Vow. As a disoriented Mo staggers around a situation gone south, Skunk takes on the Channing Tatum role of the latter, doing his best to bring his amnesiac friend back up to speed. But what about the stuff Skunk doesn’t know? Without spoiling, Killerman has a few twists up its sleeve, the type of over-the-top nonsense that’s sincerely entertaining.
And while it might lack the grimy, claustrophobic prestige of the Safdie Brothers’ latest (that only a cinematographer like Sean Price Williams can provide), there’s clearly been some thought put into the atmosphere of Malik’s corrupt NYC. His frames are filled with dark grays and greens, which, alongside the pulpy premise, successfully make the flick stand-out from a dozen direct-to-DVD “thrillers” you can find in a Redbox.
His frames are filled with dark grays and greens, which, alongside the pulpy premise, successfully make the flick stand-out from a dozen direct-to-DVD “thrillers” you can find in a Redbox.
For his part, the youngest Hemsworth yet again proves himself a capable screen presence. Wearing a leather jacket, an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, and a passable American accent, he’s a compelling lead. He never quite comes across as a fully formed individual, but perhaps that’s by design, considering the gaps in his memory.
Alas, the rest of the cast fails to make much of an impression. And said cast is basically all men: the screenplay somehow couldn’t find room for more than one woman with a name amidst the clouds of testosterone. Worse, “Lola” exists entirely to motivate Mo, boasting approximately three minutes of screen-time over the nearly two-hour runtime. Yes, there’s room for improvement in most action movies, but it’s telling that Killerman can’t even reach the low bar.
Gnarly gender politics aside, I was with this thing pretty much from start to finish. Still, the film does manage to wear out its welcome by the last half hour, even if the ending pulls off a goofy, last-minute reveal. If only we’d gotten there a little sooner. Had Malik cut about twenty minutes and rounded out his cast, this could’ve been a lean must-see. Instead, Killerman is perfectly passable.