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New Review: Killers (2014/2015)

Updated on November 6, 2015

Directors: Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto (aka The Mo Brothers)
Cast: Oka Antara, Kazuki Kitamura, Rin Takanashi

(Note: It's weird. Rottentomatoes says this is a 2015 release, but every other website I visit says it's 2014. Can anyone clarify for me? At any rate, here's my review).

There is no force on earth that could ever get me to watch this movie again. Killers is grim, nihilistic, sadistic, and unsettling. There is not a second of it that's even remotely entertaining. The violence is at times so extreme that I had to look away from the screen, and what's more, there isn't an ounce of humor to relieve the darkness. This is a relentlessly bleak motion picture, and for a movie that runs on for 138 minutes, it might be too much for some people to take.

With that said, my thumb is way up.

That's right. You heard me.

In spite of everything that I've written so far, Killers is also a haunting and unforgettable experience. It doesn't wallow in violence and gore for exploitation's sake (not like the worst movie of 2014, whose name I refuse to type). It has an extremely dark story to tell, but it tells it in a skillful and surprisingly thought-provoking way. Underneath its gore-soaked exterior is a parable about the evil that lies in every human being. Everyone has a darkness in them, and everyone has the potential to do evil.

It's a scary idea, but not necessarily a dishonest one. You remember that story a few years ago of a New York City homeless man who was stabbed after coming to the aid of a woman who was attacked, and lied in a pool of his own blood for an hour as pedestrians casually strolled past him? Some leaned in to get a good look at his face, while one individual took a photo of him with his cellphone and walked on (something similar happens in this movie).

More to the point, how many people have had negative thoughts toward someone they didn't like? How many people have said, "That person makes me so mad that I feel like strangling them"? You may not actually do it (at least, I hope you don't), but those thoughts and feelings are sometimes there, and with them comes the horrifying potential to make them a reality.

The movie tells the story of two men from different parts of the globe. First, there's Nomura Shuhei (Kazuki Kitamura), a charismatic Japanese business executive who kidnaps young women, and records them as he tortures and murders them. Once the deed is done, he edits his videos and posts them on an Internet vlog, with each video getting well over two million views. One of his viewers is a disgraced Indonesian journalist named Bayu Aditya (Oka Antara), who watches each of the videos with a perverse fascination.

Treasure these quiet moments; there's very little of them in the movie. O.O
Treasure these quiet moments; there's very little of them in the movie. O.O

One night, Bayu is made to defend himself against a sadistic cab driver and his minion. Bayu kills the two men, and while the experience leaves him shaken at first, he picks up his cellphone, records the two as they die, and posts it on an Internet vlog of his own. Nomura sees them and is intrigued. He thinks he's finally found someone with the same urges as himself. He contacts Bayu via video chat and encourages him to kill again. Bayu does, although instead of attacking innocent people, Bayu targets the scum of the city, notably the crime boss who ruined his life.

When they're not chatting on the Internet, the movie proceeds to tell each man's story. Bayu is trying to patch up his relationship with his wife and daughter, although the more he gives into his urges, the further away he drifts from them. There are some instances where the movie hints that he's become a danger to them. There's one highly disturbing scene where Bayu's father-in-law ridicules him at the dinner table, and Bayu fantasizes about pulling out a gun and shooting him and everyone else at the table.

Nomura, meanwhile, is drawn to a pretty young girl who runs a near by flower shop, because he thinks she has the urge to kill like him. Her name is Hisae (Rin Takanashi), and she's introduced in a scene where it appears as though she's trying to kill her autistic kid brother by leaving him in the road to get hit by a car. He bonds with the young woman and her brother, and in one of the most disquieting moments in the movie, Nomura gives Hisae's brother a taser and encourages him to use it on a classmate who bullies him at school. Needless to say, the kid doesn't hesitate when the opportunity arises.

Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto (aka The Mo Brothers), Killers is an exquisitely made thriller. The cinematography by Gunnar Nimpuno is absolutely breathtaking. One of the most effective and upsetting shots in the film is a deep-focused long take with two cops in the foreground, while in the background Nomura stuffs a woman in the trunk of his car (the filmmakers use a similar shot later in the film, and it's equally effective).

Oh sure, she seems sweet. It's usually the sweet looking ones you have to watch out for! O.O
Oh sure, she seems sweet. It's usually the sweet looking ones you have to watch out for! O.O

With the elegant cinematography, razor sharp editing by Arifin Marhan Japri, powerful music by Aria Prayogi, and stellar production design by Satoko Saito and Rico Marpaung, The Mo Brothers create a number of scenes that will certainly be impossible to forget. There's the scene at a nightclub, where Nomura exacts revenge against a man who had beaten him up on another night. There's the scene where Bayu breaks into the house of a crooked lawyer, and discovers something truly shocking in the lawyer's bedroom.

Perhaps the most frightening and haunting scene in the movie comes when Nomura is in his basement, fixing to kill his latest victim, but is interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. I wouldn't dream of revealing who the visitor is, but there comes a point where Nomura can't let the person leave, and reveals his true self with dialogue that is surprisingly more frightening than some of the kill scenes in the movie.

It helps that Kazuki Kitamura is as convincing as he is. When he's speaking his lines, it doesn't come across as just acting. You feel like you're listening to the words of a real life psychopath, and they flow so naturally from Kitamura's lips that his performance alone had me cowering in my seat. It would be no stretch to compare his performance to Kevin Spacey's from Se7en, or Anthony Hopkins's from The Silence of the Lamb. The man is terrifying to watch, but as evil as he is, Kitamura still manages to make him seem, well, human.

Oka Antara has an equally difficult role to play, but he pulls it off beautifully. His Bayu is only slightly more sympathetic than Nomura. He kills not because it gives him pleasure, but because he feels he's doing something good by killing the people he does. It's to the filmmaker's credit that they never condone his actions. Every life he ends takes a psychological toll on the man, and every life he takes leads to serious repercussions.

Super Evil vs. Evil
Super Evil vs. Evil

As good as the movie is, Killers is not without its share of faults. There's one instance where a woman stupidly drops a taser by an unconscious killer, just seconds after using it on him, and there's one slow motion shot in the end (involving two characters falling from a high building) that is quite cheesy. And while the nature of the plot guarantees that the movie's going to be very violent, there will be those who will feel that it goes too far. You know who are. It's likely you won't make it past the opening scene (which involves Nomura bludgeoning a woman he has tied to a chair to death).

For those of you with strong stomachs, Killers is an extremely effective thriller. It's not a fun movie by any means, but for what it sets out to do, it certainly gets the job done. The movie is produced by the same people who made The Raid: Redemption, another well-made thriller, but one I didn't care for as much. They've certainly topped themselves with this one.

Not Rated, but would qualify for the NC-17 rating for disturbing graphic bloody violence, some sexual content, language, some drug use.

Final Grade: *** ½ (out of ****)

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