The thing with serial killers that filmmakers always seem to get wrong is that nearly all of them manage to blend into society like they’re just like the rest of us. They call it the mask of sanity. This is why a guy like Dennis ‘BTK’ Rader can get away with it for so long. This is why whenever they’re caught all of their friends and neighbors say the same god damn thing, “He was so quiet.” or “He seemed like such a nice guy.” That’s exactly why serial killers are such a horrifying force. The people in your neighborhood or the people in your life all run the possibility of being remorseless murderers. Yet, whenever a horror movie or a police procedural approaches the idea, serial killers are these raving lunatics who bathe in blood or spend their waking hours menacing everyone they come across. They terrorize a starving woman at the bottom of a pit in their basement. Throughout the movie, their social interactions are intense or awkward and weird. If you or I were to encounter them, there would be no question. Your first impression of this person is that they have probably killed three or more people with a cooling off period between each kill.
You know? The sort of thing that qualifies them as a serial killer.
It’s true that some of the real serial killers out there are outwardly weird but it’s also true that a movie about a guy like Robert Hansen would be mostly boring because throughout most of his daily life he was baking cakes and hunting on the weekend. Only occasionally did he set a kidnapped hooker loose in the woods with the intention of hunting her like an animal. So I guess you have to condense the rage down to a feature film length and exagerrate or you’re going to lose your audience. This is not exactly why I didn’t care for Tony, though.
Tony has no friends. He tries to make them but he’s not very good at it. He’ll stop and talk to just about anyone, awkwardly. He’s on the dole so he spends a lot of time watching action movies and when he’s not doing that, he hits a gay bar and just hangs out even though he’s not gay. As a matter of fact, he frequently tries to fuck hookers but something always goes wrong. On the surface, Tony is socially stunted but underneath that he’s a murderer. He manages to initiate a hangout sesh with a pair junkie chavs one afternoon and while they’re both nodding, he suffocates one to death with a plastic bag and locks the other in the closet while he hangs out with the dead body and a couple other bodies he just happens to have laying around. Meanwhile, a local boy goes missing and his asshole father is convinced that Tony has him. Does he? Maybe. I guess we’ll just have to find out, eh?
Tony is the sort of character role that actors can really sink into. He’s a nervous, nuanced guy that allows an actor to run wild. Most of the cast abuses him, verbally, he’s literally spit on, he has no personal skills whatsoever and is generally unable to function in any sort of way. Actor Peter Ferdinando has a grand old time playing him, too. It’s obvious. His portrait of a man lost in the throes of alienation is quite vivid and the sudden violence that characterizes his reaction to the world that pushes him down is unsurprising. Unfortunately, Ferdinando’s portrayal is where the good times end for Tony.
Tony is a fairly unpleasant character study that typifies a wave of these loser anti-hero movies I’ve been seeing lately. Last year I fell prey to the false advertising of Special (Review) and wound up sitting through a movie about a guy that I didn’t like and all the shit that makes his miserable life miserable. So why would I want to sit through this a second time? Sure, the people that Tony winds up killing are complete assholes to him and even more of them are of no use to society but this asks me to sympathize with the killer and I’m not sure I’m capable of doing that. Primarily, I can’t maintain a firm set of personal morals and feel for a guy who dismembers his victims and throws their body parts into the Thames but mostly I don’t feel anything for him because he’s so genuinely loathsome.
Truth be told, I don’t like Tony; personally, that is. He’s a classic jerk and the payoff that I was waiting for never came.
The world Tony lives in, though, is captured exceptionally well. This is not the London that Hollywood shows you. You know? That touristy slice of the city that most of us living outside of the UK are familiar with. This is the real deal. Tony exists on the scuzzy outskirts, surrounded by examples of the real city life. The entirety of his surroundings are bleak and suffocating. It comes as no surprise that the cramped housing projects that he haunts would produce such a social reject. This portrait is as entertaining as it sounds, though, and even though it looks like a postcard from hell, there’s also not really much of a point to any of it. If your idea of time well spent at the movies is watching a borderline autistic man suffer and bring others down to his level, then Tony: London Serial Killer is probably going to be your bag but if scares are what you want then Tony is going to seem like a tedious look at a particularly uninteresting life. The merciful side of Tony: London Serial Killer is that it runs a lean 70 minutes so you don’t have to suffer long with it.
Tony: London Serial Killer is getting a lot of press that compares it to the amazing Michael Rooker performance in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and I can see the parallels but Henry exists in the sort of namespace that allows for one entry and one entry alone. Everyone else can expect pistols at dawn. To be like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, you’re going to have to exceed it but the thing that makes Henry the superior picture in this case is that it has a logical narrative. To be certain, it has many vignettes but you can tell that the plot is going places and that it will feature an inevitable climax and conclusion. The point by which Tony’s credits decide to roll is about the definition of anti-climax and the only thing you’re left wondering is why you spent the last hour of your life watching this movie.