SXSW 2010 Review: TONY
Director: Gerard Johnson
Writer: Gerard Johnson
Cast: Peter Ferdinando, Frank Boyce, Lucy Flack
The serial killer genre isn't exactly unexplored territory. We've seen it explored from every angle, from AMERICAN PSYCHO to ZODIAC to M. It's a popular type of film because it allows filmmakers to explore the depths of the human psyche, where depravity reigns and the categorical imperative is a mystery. TONY, this British import which screened at SXSW, doesn't offer anything especially new to the genre.
Instead, it simply attempts to tell yet another story about one of society's outcasts that finds catharsis through homicide. The film isn't a complete success, but it's an intriguing film to say the least. Check out my full review after the jump.
TONY is the first feature film by Gerard Johnson, which takes place within a few days in the life a serial killer. This murderer, Tony, is portrayed by Peter Ferdinando who excels in the role. The film isn't narratively driven and is instead more of a character study. This is quite unique to the serial killer genre, as most films similar to this find themselves falling into that familiar rut of a cop on his tail, him wanting to be caught, and the inevitable capture. In this respect, TONY completely subverts the genre.
In other ways, it conforms precisely to its predecessors. The film is replete with on- screen murder, violence, and corpses galore. The audience is given the gift of uncensored on-screen violence, which borders on disturbing more than once. However, it gives the audience an in depth look at Tony's character as he is more than willing, and often times eager, to violently lash out at those around him.
In fact, Tony possesses some sort of a twisted moral code. He only commits murder when he is provoked, though the provocation occasionally comes from innocent acts such as a television license inspector. One of the central questions raised by Gerard Johnson surrounds Tony's origin as a serial killer. Have we constrained him to this life by alienating him from society? Do we as citizen's have a responsibility for this man's actions?
One of the more interesting facets of the film is subtly included and hinted at throughout the film. Tony has a disturbing tendency to keep his victims around the house for company. He places cadavers around his apartment as if they were his dolls in an attempt to placate his loneliness. In this respect, Tony is further committing himself to an infinite downward spiral. He cannot live without murder, as it satisfies his desire for companionship.
However, TONY possesses a critical flaw. The film's pacing is incredibly varied. The high points of the film possess incredible tension, which brings the audience into the film quite adeptly. However, immediately following these thrilling scenes we're brought to a screeching halt. The tension escapes the celluloid like a bat out of hell. This leaves the highs of the film very high, but the lows are left in the dungeons.
However, the film's philosophical and political introspection is one to admire and mostly makes up for its pacing issues. The intimate character study of someone so dejected from contemporary society is almost intriguing enough to make up for the film's slow moments. Almost.
It isn't among the best films I saw at SXSW, but it's definitely an interesting entry into the serial killer genre. TONY doesn't have a US distribution deal yet, but I can guarantee it'll find a DVD release at the very least.
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