Revolver Entertainment // 2010 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // April 9th, 2010
Keeping a neighborhood watch.
The serial killer is a potent figure in contemporary society and its fiction. He (since they're almost exclusively male) is an especially scary person because there's physical evidence to mark him as monstrous: he could be your next-door neighbor, the guy who bags your groceries, even your best friend. The serial killer is also a seductive character because he reminds us of the price we pay to live in the modern world. All the conveniences we take for granted can also contribute to an atmosphere of alienation and disaffection, and the serial killer is what happens when a modern person becomes completely cut off from others. Or so serial killer films would have us believe. Tony: London Serial Killer hopes to add a portrait of modern disaffection in Britain's captial to the pantheon of low-budget genre flicks. Although the creative team gets points for trying, the overall experience of Tony offers little to recommend.
Tony: London Serial Killer is exactly what it sounds like. We follow Tony (Peter Ferdinando, Mug), an unemployed loner as he wanders around the seedier parts of London looking to make a human connection. When he's not wandering, he's either watching action flicks (on his VCR, of course: he's that out of touch) or occasionally killing people.
Tony aims very high, with obvious connections to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Taxi Driver. The film tries to be a minimalist, documentary-looking portrayal of a modern serial killer. The only problem is that Tony is so darn disaffected that nothing really happens, and the film can't live up to its aspirations. Henry works because of the relationship between Henry and Otis, which we see develop and change while learning about Henry's killer ways. There's no relationship in Tony to illuminate the protagonist, and consequently no real catalyst for change. Similarly, Taxi Driver has such a deep impact because we see Travis Bickle spiral out of control. Sure, he's not the most stable guy when the film opens, but his attempts at connection are awkward and frequent enough to make him change, even if only for the worst. Not so for Tony. He's too insular to attempt a genuine connection, so there's nothing to make him change, for better or worse.
What we're left with is a film about an awkward guy awkwardly wandering around London doing awkward things...when he's not murdering random people, that is. You can mimic two-thirds of the movie by getting yourself a bad haircut, going to the wrong side of town, and muttering to yourself.
Tony does have some things going for it. The first is Peter Ferdinando. He apparently lost a lot of weight for the role, and his commitment to portraying a serial killer is obvious. He's simply amazing as the alienated Tony. I'd absolutely believe him capable of murder, and if I saw him out in public I'd cross the street. He's that icky, and that's about the only thing that makes Tony even remotely scary. The other thing the film does well is leverage its London locations. This isn't the London of Tower Bridge, the Millennium Dome, or Big Ben. No, this is the London of Jack the Ripper, and in many ways the various exteriors are even more menacing than Tony himself. For independent movie makers, the film provides a fine lesson in how to make location shooting work.
Revolver Entertainment sent Verdict a screener, so it's difficult to comment on final product. However, given the film's low budget and documentary aesthetic, don't expect a reference quality video presentation. From what I've seen the 1.78:1 transfer is without any authoring problems, but is rather dark and gritty. The simple Dolby 2.0 stereo track does a fine job with the dialogue and score (by The The). However, I very much hope that the final product includes subtitles. I'm pretty okay with deciphering British accents, but there were several characters speaking fast enough with heavy enough accents to be almost impossible to understand. Those who have trouble with accents might want to avoid this release. There were no extras on the screener we were provided.
It's rough to slag a film which is so obviously a labor of love for those involved, but Tony: London Serial Killer simply doesn't present an interesting enough picture of its titular killer to be worth a recommendation. Perhaps die-hard serial killer fans will get something out of it, as will those willing to overlook the story problems to see an amazing performance from Peter Ferdinando.
This is one DVD the London Chamber of Commerce doesn't want getting out.
Tony is guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Revolver Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated