Killers Anonymous, directed by Martin Owen and written by Elizabeth Morris, is a crime thriller centered on a group of assassins in hiding as a manhunt goes on for the perpetrator of a senator’s assassination. (BV 3.5/5.0)
Review by Junior Associate Beatrice Viri
Killers Anonymous opens with Gary Oldman’s unnamed character facilitating a group therapy meeting, and then meeting biker lesbian Jade (Jessica Alba) at a bar. He is her handler of sorts, and she apologizes for “messing up a job”. Exasperated, Oldman ultimately leaves, but not before telling Jade to watch out for a lass eyeing her in the corner. Jade doesn’t heed the warning, but the promising hookup soon turns into a disaster.
Following a gruesome introduction, we are then transported into the depths of London for another group therapy meeting. It’s not an average group— but a local chapter of Killers Anonymous, a faction of contract killers devoid of remorse for blood. The gathering comprises of geeky Ben (Elliot James Langridge), brooding, edgy Leo (Michael Socha), unsettling doctor Calvin (Tim McInnerny), rambunctious Markus (Tommy Flanagan), and an unhinged Krystal (Elizabeth Morris); they are headed by Joanna (MyAnna Buring), a seemingly normal therapist who wants to help the killers sort through their sociopathic emotions.
A new addition joins their meeting today, though— nervous, innocent-looking Alice (Rhyon Nicole Brown) who may be holding the darkest secrets of them all. And does Alice have anything to do with the chaotic manhunt going on outside for the US senator and presidential candidate (Sam Hazeldine), who had an attempt made on his life prior to the meeting?
Killers Anonymous features a rather colorful cast, with easily recognizable stars like Jessica Alba and Gary Oldman, but unfortunately doesn’t do anything with them. The characters have potential at first, introduced with morally grey, nuanced motivations. However, they quickly become caricatures; the viewer is unable to form any emotional attachment, distracted by myriad twists being fed at every moment. Don’t get me wrong— suspense itself isn’t bad. The movie certainly keeps you engaged while watching, but too many twists get stale when your characters don’t have any meaningful development. We also never truly understand why Oldman is even there; it’s implied that he’s a mastermind within the CIA, but the movie doesn’t use that information, dismissing his character as background fodder.
Jumping off that notion, never-ending twists are a modern trend in movies and TV—to constantly keep your audience in anxious anticipation. No director wants a “predictable” ending anymore (though I’ve noticed the trend mostly plagues male directors), but what exactly is so wrong with predictability? A few turns are essential, but developing multifaceted characters is equally as important— they’ll encourage the audience’s engagement. A popular fan-theory being validated in canon seems mundane, but if the theory is well-developed (as many theories are) and makes sense within the narrative, why does predictability matter?
However, that’s getting a bit off topic. Because Killers Anonymous doesn’t lead up to anything meaningful, so there’s nothing to attach to in the first place. The film introduces many characters and many concepts but doesn’t tread deeper than shallow waters. It’ll make you think, sure— but halfway you’ll probably get bored of the fact that it reaches for more than it is. Another grievance is how Jessica Alba’s short-lived character, Jade, a lesbian, objectifies women in a very male gaze-y way. It’s not only unrealistic, but insulting as it made lesbians look predatory and creepy.
Even so, there are some shining aspects to the film. Killers Anonymous is stylized like a Tarantino film, especially in the beginning where motion graphics illustrate a fight sequence into a comic book scene. The art direction is nothing to scoff at and set up a colorful premise; it’s a shame that the progression disappoints. If you’re looking for some cheap fun, Killers Anonymous is something to keep in mind. Otherwise, don’t bother with yet another movie relying on shock value and constant violence instead of a semblance of significance.
© Beatrice Viri FF2 Media 7/18/2019
Commentary by Review Coach Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
I wanted to expand on a point that Bea brought up, a point that was almost a dealbreaker for me when we saw Killers Anonymous together. At the very beginning of the movie, the character Jade explains to Gary Oldman’s character that she had been kicked out of a nightclub recently (or gotten into a fight or something; I forget the details to be honest) because she discovered she was fucking the same waitress as the bouncer. Jade then proceeds to go home with a woman from the bar, who does a pole dance for her at her apartment. Jade repeatedly calls this woman things like “sweetheart,” “baby,” etc.
Do male filmmakers really think that women-loving-women objectify each other in the same way that they do with their own partners? Does Martin Owen think lesbians would want to act out his weird fantasy just because he can’t be bothered to imagine something else?
I’m not saying queer people, or our relationships, are perfect. The problem here is that the script treats Jade basically as if she was a Tarantino style male character, with the gender reversed. I’m not saying women-loving-women, genderqueer people who love women, and trans men are not capable of bravado or toxic masculinity in the vein of Tarantino guys; I’m certainly not saying that people of all genders don’t (or shouldn’t) enjoy casual sex. But when you write a male character and switch the names, you get a set of behaviors and interactions that only a cis-het male would ever have with women. That way of storytelling is not true, and it’s not honest, either; it assumes a universality that anyone familiar with the queer community knows does not exist. It means you’re not bothering to really understand queer culture, so you’re just taking your own culture and inserting queer people into them to seem like you’re hip and “woke” when you’re probably just trying to get queer people to see and promote your movie.
To write the way queer people engage with casual sex and the more toxic aspects of hookup culture, an artist needs to be familiar with the unique ways the queer community works. They have to talk to queer people, or better yet, be queer. At the very least, you should hire a queer woman to play the character, which didn’t happen with Killers Anonymous. Queer people are affected by straight narratives of romance and gender roles, but we have been purposely excluded from mainstream straight romance in myriad cultural, social, and legal ways. That has created a dense tangle of influences on queer dating that makes it a totally different scene from straight dating, and if the main creatives on this film knew any queer people, they would know that.
Does Killers Anonymous pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
It does! A huge perk of Killers Anonymous is that the female characters are its charismatic, driving forces.