Lionsgate // 2005 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // January 3rd, 2008
Get a dark, devastating glimpse inside a killer's mind.
Suffering delusions of being far smarter than it actually is, Born Killers, a.k.a. Piggy Banks, is the type of junk some poor schmo will pick up from the video store expecting a tight little thriller. Excited by the blurb on the back of the case, people will pop the DVD into their players prepared for a dark and violent thriller in the vein of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Pray for them, for they are misguided.
Brought up by a frequently absent father following their mother's death, brothers John and Michael Vanderslip are raised into a life of crime. They go out, meet people, kill them (in the case of women, this is usually after sleeping with them) and take their money.
The brothers' harmonious relationship begins to fall apart, however, when they discover their dad had a second family. Not only that but he apparently had more time for them. Oh, no! What will the brothers do about this? Who cares?!?
I recall some years ago seeing an interview with Bono from U2. I believe it
was around the time The Million Dollar Hotel was released, though I could
be wrong. He spoke of a conversation he'd had with a friend who had asked him:
If he wrote a novel would it be one of the great novels? If he made a film,
would it be one of the great films? The point he was making was a good one; if
you are setting out to create anything, be it an album, a novel, or a movie, how
will it be judged?
Unless you genuinely believe you will create something good, what is the point in even trying? I ask this because I have to wonder what point anyone saw in making this movie.
Things start out well enough. We meet the brothers Vanderslip, in their
early twenties; through a series of flashbacks narrated by John we learn of
their unconventional upbringing. Their often-absent father, played by Tom
Sizemore (The Relic) is a thief and a killer. He teaches the boys that
people are piggy banks, and when they need money they just break one open. The
boys take this to heart and grow up to be just like Daddy.
So far so good. Sadly the problems soon start and the boredom quickly sets in.
The biggest problem I had with the movie was how pointless it all was. When the final credits finally began to roll after 87 minutes, which I swear felt more like three hours, I had no idea what the film was trying to say. I'm sure the filmmakers set out with good intentions but it was like watching a dung beetle, rolling a mound of excrement along, picking up more and more excrement on the way, and, when he got to his final destination realizing his accomplishment amounted to nothing more than a big pile of excrement.
I'll try and be a little clearer with a few of the problems I had with the
movie. For one, the central character of John (Jake Muxworthy) narrates
throughout the course of the movie but his disaffected tone recounting the
events just grates. Yes, I get that he and his brother are emotionless killers,
but when there is not one character in the movie the viewer is able to connect
with or at least sympathize with, it's very hard to care about what is happening
Worse still, other characters will frequently ramble on with lengthy dialogue on subjects ranging from the advantages of lesbian intercourse to how snow days are, like, the best thing ever. It just comes off as the writings of a Tarantino wannabe and gets tiresome very quickly, especially as everyone is playing it so cool and emotionless that you find yourself getting less and less interested in what is going on, which really isn't very much.
The film's structure, which includes frequent flashbacks, is a total mess. We waste around 15 minutes at the start of the movie when the brothers meet three young girls. Considering that the events during this segment have no consequences on what follows it seems a total waste of time. We know the brothers are going to kill the girls. Why drag it out unless it's going to have ramifications later on? I'm sure it's an attempt to show how the dull ramblings of one of the girls, Archer (Kelli Garner, Thumbsucker) cause a rift in the brothers' relationship, but we've already seen the two frequently fail to see eye to eye, so again, it seems pointless.
We finally get to the main plotline around 40 minutes in. For an 87-minute movie, that seems like an awfully long time. Now, this may be something of a spoiler coming up so be warned. Upon learning he has a half-sister, named Gertie, John decides he's going to take revenge on her because his waste-of-space father spent more time with her when they were growing up. However, when the two meet, they immediately (and I mean as soon as Gertie opens the door to John) jump into bed together. Even weirder, both characters are fully aware they are related and share the same father yet don't find anything strange in what they've just done. Last time I checked that was incest. For the film to gloss over it was, frankly, bizarre. When Gertie (played by Lauren German, Hostel: Part 2) tells John she knows who he is, she remarks, "Come on. I'm not gonna screw a total stranger at my door, am I?" Excuse me? I had to re-watch the movie to confirm I'd not missed something and, despite the back of the DVD case saying they are step-siblings, the film itself states they share the same biological father. I even used the subtitles to ensure I wasn't making a mistake.
Now, I could be wrong here but I think the filmmakers intended for us to sympathize with John as he fell in love with his half-sister. That's a little difficult when we've seen him killing people throughout the film with little or no remorse. There's no path of redemption that John goes down. In fact the only thing he goes down...no, I'll leave it but I'm sure you get the picture.
Audio and video are both passable but frankly, the soundtrack was so abysmal and the cinematography so lackluster that you wouldn't marvel at this film if it were presented in high-definition on a 110-inch screen with a top-of-the-line sound system.
Lauren German, as Gertie, gives a fine performance with the abysmal material she's given to work with. She's also quite hot. Would I dance the buttock jig with her if she were my half- sister though? NO! It's against the very laws of nature itself! They even do it in a graveyard! Have these people no respect at all?
Other than that, the scenes where Tom Sizemore is bestowing his world view on the young boys are reasonably effective. Seeing how their young minds take in his twisted logic is a little unsettling. Sadly this is something the rest of the film fails to live up to.
It's surprising how hard it is to write about a movie so dire, so aimless. Having sat through this tiresome mess on two occasions I can safely say there is really no redeemable aspect to this movie. I tried to find something worthwhile, really I did, but there's nothing. I can feel a two-hour, alcohol-fueled Guitar Hero III session coming on to remove any memory of this abomination.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R