'The Suicide Theory': Film Review

The Suicide Theory Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Seven8 Media

The Suicide Theory Still - H 2015

Suicide isn't painless in this fiendishly clever thriller

A hit man attempts to kill a suicidal man who seemingly can't die in Dru Brown's darkly comic Australian thriller

Hit man thrillers are a dime a dozen, but director Dru Brown's Aussie variation on the familiar genre takes some seriously clever, nasty turns. The tale of a suicidal man who hires a veteran contract killer to do the job for him, The Suicide Theory is a black comedy of the darkest kind.

The two main characters are Steven Ray (Steve Mouzakis), a dispassionate killer capable of bludgeoning a stranger to death just for making a sarcastic comment in a convenience store, and Percival (Leon Cain), a chubby, mild-mannered man whose profusion of injuries and facial scars testify to his frequent fruitless attempts to remove himself from this world.

In a memorable twist of a Hollywood meet-cute, the two men become acquainted when Percival swan dives off a building and lands on the hood of Steve's car. Unhurt, Percival has a business proposal for Steve. Convinced that he's cursed and incapable of dying by his own hand and can only be killed when he's happy and not expecting it, he wants Steve to take him out of his misery. Steve is initially reluctant to accept the job, arguing that Percival doesn't really want to die. But the large sum of money he's offered changes his mind.

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We eventually learn that Steve, who's been falling down on the job lately, is still mourning the hit-and-run death of his wife, and Percival is despondent over the death of his male lover.

True to his word, Steve diligently sets about trying to complete his assignment, only to discover that his intended victim has survived every attempt against his life, including shooting, suffocation and myriad other methods. In one of the film's running jokes, nearly each time after a murderous encounter Percival wakes up in the hospital being told by a doctor that he's lucky to be alive.

While the proceedings could have been played for broad Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote-style laughs, the film instead emerges as an existential drama about the vagaries of fate. Michael J. Kospiah's fiendishly inventive screenplay features a plethora of surprising plot twists eventually revealing that the connections between the two men, who form a strangely twisted but touching friendship, are far deeper than imagined.

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The Suicide Theory doesn't fully succeed in making its absurd premise convincing, and the frequent flashbacks and lengthy dialogue scenes drag down its pacing. The budgetary limitations cause further shortcomings, especially with the spotty make-up effects. But the film remains engrossing nonetheless, with director Brown, shooting in gritty Brisbane locations, providing a suitably ominous atmosphere. And the performances are terrific, with Cain poignantly moving as the hapless would-be victim and Mouzakis conveying a world-weary desperation as the ruthless killer who unexpectedly manages to engage our sympathy.     

Production: Seven8 Media
Cast: Steve Mouzakis, Leon Cain, Joss McWilliam, Matthew Scully
Director: Dru Brown
Screenwriter: Michael J. Kospiah
Producers: Dru Brown, Dan Macarthur, Christian McCarty, Jacob McCarty, Melanie Poole
Executive producers: Darwin Brooks, Aaron McCarty, Waynne Videroni
Director of photography: Dan Macarthur
Editor: Ahmad Malini
Casting: Paulette Edser

Rated R, 98 min.