Richard Jacobson’s film ‘New Town Killers’ begins with our main character of interest Sean (James Anthony Pearson) and his best mate Sam (Charles Mnene) returning from what I’m sure was some devilment with Sean running across rooftops while Sam runs alongside him on the street below with Sean making a leap from rooftop to street, parkour style, to Sam’s stunned amazement. As it turns out Sean’s athletic skills will be most necessary in the hours to come.
Sean is a tough kid living in a tough neighborhood surviving a tough existence. His only family is his beloved older sister Alice (Liz Kelly), who is older than Sean in years only since Alice doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word responsibility. Alice, in addition to getting herself all knocked up, also finds herself owing money to some rather unsavory characters, money that she is in no position to pay back in the time frame that they have set for her to pay them back. Being the magnanimous types that these bad people are, they give Alice the option of helping her cause by simply making a quick trip to Amsterdam and playing package courier. Well Sean cannot allow this to happen to big sister which places in him in dire need of some fast cash.
Say hello to Alistair (Dougray Scott). I’m not quite sure who Alistair is or what Alistair does but he is quite wealthy in addition to being born without a soul. Alistair gets off on hunting people, preferably the marginalized, and he has made Sean a simple offer. Sean gets the money he needs if he can simply avoid detection in the big city for twelve hours. Alistair conveniently left out the part that if Sean is found he will be murdered, but Sean will be able to figure out that part of the equation real soon, rather quickly.
Along for the ride with Alistair is a young man named Jamie (Alastair McKenzie) interviewing for a job in Alistair’s firm, with this human manhunt being a crucial part of Alistair’s interview process to see if this potential employee is ready to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Sean is reticent at first, even going so far as try his mate Sam’s particular venue for generating income, but Sean discovers that giving blow jobs to old men not be up his alley and thus he takes up Alistair’s offer. Now in retrospect, while understanding that Alistair’s offer does suck pretty damn hard, I do think I would still take my chances with being hunted by an armed lunatic in a Mazarati as opposed to the other money making alternatives that were offered up. The blow jobs in particular.
Now the game is afoot with Sean seemingly completely unable to shake these cats despite how large this city is. And no one can be trusted. Absolutely no one. And Alistair, in addition to being off his rocker really, really hates to lose. Good luck with this Sean.
‘New Town Killers’ is an interesting take on the hunted man genre, one that is wrapped in a social message about soulless corporations and the voiceless who exist invisibly in the margins. It is also an entertaining movie, a tense movie and a very, very frustrating movie. The first element that makes this movie watchable is the performance put forth by Dougray Scott as the character of Alistair. Alistair is as morally corrupt as they come and Scott plays Alistair with a malicious zeal and venom that keeps this film perpetually driving forward. While James Anthony Pearson doesn’t bring the same level of intensity to his role as the put upon Sean, he does do fine job of keeping his character grounded in the reality of his situation, which keeps this movie, with its relatively outlandish premise, still managing to skirt the edges of believability. Jacobson’s stark and depressingly dark and gritty photography also help in selling us on the bleakness of the lives of these people and the depression that they exist in.
While I liked the character of Jamie Steward as portrayed by Alastair McKenzie I’m not sure why he was in the movie and what he was supposed to represent. Did his character really believe that this was just a game? If he did then he was mighty naïve because anyone who plays games like this already has issues. And once the character of Jamie becomes convinced that this isn’t a game I find his actions after that point even more confusing because know he knows that Alistair is nuts. I know this particular situation leads to some important political speeches by both characters in relation to what we are seeing and what they both believe but still… a scenario that what ultimately was supposed deliver a shock instead delivered a ‘surely you saw that coming’ moment.
Another thing that worked quite well in this movie was the suspense factor, particularly when the hunted attempted to become the hunter with a series of sequences that will have you on pins on needles. My problem with this particular series of events is that it elevates the character of Sean to levels which I wasn’t sold that he could actually rise to. Maybe I’m underselling the character and thus underselling the individuals that this movie chooses to shine a much needed light onto, but from street hooligan to master computer hacker, confidence man and commando… I’m not to sure about that.
But I did enjoy ‘New Town Killers’ as it was a stark, gritty and effective thriller which just on occasion veered off its path and asks its audience to suspend belief a little more than I was actually willing to suspend.