Lionsgate // 2001 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 2nd, 2004
Murder was never a problem...until now.
A warm tale of a hitman, lost in the wilds of moral bankruptcy, committed unconditionally to a tyrannical crime lord, wreaking death and torture to all whose contracts are delivered to him, only to be surprised by his heart surfacing and emotions affecting him, and the road to redemption revealed? Sort of, except for the warm part. Replace that with "profoundly disturbing."
Jon (Andrew Howard) is a bad-ass. He is a soulless assassination machine, ridiculously efficient at what he does, which is killing and hurting people lots. His employer is an enigmatic purveyor of death, known only as the Tattooed Man. He and Jon have a perverse father/son dynamic, where Jon is unconditionally bound to him in loyalty -- willing to carry out even the most heinous of assignments. It is his job. And he has nothing else.
That is, until he bumps into an old friend, Andy, and his wife Cathy.
Andy, a pal from school, used to look after Jon, before Jon was able to kill people with his index finger. After a casual drink, Jon finds himself at Andy's house, meeting the wife and child, and before he can say "Growing Pains," is drawn into their nuclear relationship.
Not only that, he acts as a foil for their troubled marriage to bounce back. And though Jon embraces the newly resurrected friendship with his long-forgotten mate, the person who truly makes an impact on him is Cathy.
In Cathy, and her family, Jon sees reality and the potential for romantic love, a feeling absolutely alien to him. While at Andy and Cathy's house for a party or just to watch a game, he finds himself on the cusp of an alternate world, a world he doesn't fit in, but in a deep, dark place he longs to rejoin.
"Promise me you won't change," he tells Andy.
Their house is a respite for Jon; of course, he still has his day job.
But the two realities Jon is now straddling will not cohere, and in riding the fence Jon has brought together two existences that are combustible when they collide. Suddenly, Jon is faced with feelings he's never had to deal with before, and a conflict of loyalty; he can either explore these new possibilities-love, restitution, repentance -- nor descend into the amoral void he clawed out from. This much is sure: there will be a steep price, and Jon will ultimately have to pay it.
And folks, when those credits roll, two to one you'll be speechless.
The Killing Kind (originally titled Mr. In-Between, a head-scratcher if you ask me; he sounds like a Muppet) is a great movie. But feel-good, it ain't. And this is the novelty of the film, its ability to sidestep a possibly schmaltzy stroll into cliché-land and provide a refreshingly original take on the hitman-with-a-conscience gig.
As the enforcer facing a crisis of existential proportions, Jon as played by Andrew Howard is a dynamo; he is a man capable of brute force, yet a glimmer of humanity lies below the surface. When we get a look at this guy, we see an absolutely icy killer, seemingly devoid of anything resembling a soul. He does what he's told, and is ferociously loyal to the Tattooed Man. His duties are of the unspeakable nature, and he carries out his orders with startling efficiency.
The character really evolves into something more interesting as he slowly lets himself become ensconced in the family dynamic of Andy and Cathy. They are his connection to a mainstream world, minus all the death and dismemberment.
But Jon is not in a business where he can just lightly sever ties. The roots to his seedy other-life run far too deep for any existence-altering change to happen, no strings attached. Even when he takes a stab at comeuppance, the forces of the deep still manage to drag him down.
It is with this struggle -- between Jon's renewed emotional palette and his bleak, violent history -- where the movie really clicks. Both of these lives are tearing at him, and Jon can't withstand the pressure.
A major theme in the movie is choice, and Jon is faced with many of them. But none are so dramatic as what path he finally decides to walk, and the consequences of the choice are where The Killing Kind has the most bite.
What the movie boasts in content it lacks in anything else. The disc comes with zilch-a-roni. This shouldn't be deal-breaker though, if you're on the fence of checking this out.
The Killing Kind is a well-made, well-acted, and compelling movie that is as unforgiving as it is entertaining. If you're looking for something quality and under the radar, here you go.
The accused is released on account of surprisingly good behavior. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R