Tony

Tony

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Tony is a rather remarkable creation, sporting a slicked-down bowl-cut, pasty skin, NHS glasses, a perpetually awkward gait and a gentle nasal voice that could etch glass. He's mostly a shut-in, a lover and collector of Eighties uberviolent action movies - on degrading VHS of course. He lives and breathes in the dark swill of humanity - the neon prisons of the Red Light Districts, the forgotten urban areas and the vertical slum of his home.

Oh, and he is a serial killer, striking down those who enter his domain and mess with his status-quo. Other than being a murderer, he is the crystallisation of every awkward person you've ever met - the kind of person we end up dreading to meet, or becoming, through personal neurosis. Peter Ferdinando is excellent as the titular character. It is an awesome challenge giving life to an insular man, letting a fragment of humanity out behind all that personal repression. And yet only once does he let the personal demons show in a brief conversation with the bathroom mirror.

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Most of the laughs come from writer/director Gerard Johnson mixing his realist approach with Tony's offbeat existence and savagery. This brings to mind the similar dichotomy in Steven Sheil's grisly satire Mum And Dad. An enraged speech from a heroin dealer is interrupted by a silly mobile phone jingle, Tony asks a prostitute: "What can you do for five pounds?", and he visits a butcher's stall immediately after a scene where he's hacking up a body.

It is a movie rather fascinated with morbid details of Tony's psychosis - and his continual failed efforts to reach out and meet people. Trying to strike up conversation with disinterested people (the pirate DVD man, a corpse sharing his bed), staring at a domestic in progress in a pub, paying for drink in pubs with loose change, always misreading situations and invading people's personal space, oblivious to amourous advances. He's also the first person fingered out for criminal investigation when a 10-year-old goes missing - a story thread that doesn't really deliver, and is often forgotten amid the gruesome kettle-flex garrotting and damp smashes of claw-hammers.

The film is technically excellent: strikingly shot by David Higgs in mostly muted colours and natural light, boasting terrific sound design - bass rumbles and thumps as Tony's killing nature emerges - and universally decent performances. It's also the first film I've seen in a long time that deals directly with the difficulties in disposing of human bodies - rolls of old carpet and quicklime are not required. Tony's drains are perpetually clogged, and visitors always complain of the stench - thankfully all dismemberment is framed carefully to avoid seeing the most grisly details.

Right, I've described the film. What do I think of it? After the recent forum discussion about the usefulness of star ratings, I'm at a bit of a loss. The film is well-made and written, it doesn't insult my intelligence and does what it promises. That guarantees it three stars. But the story and Tony's journey doesn't do anything else for me. It feels like I'm not sharing time with people, rather with well-drawn storytelling pawns.

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2009
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A lonely oddball comes under scrutiny after a child goes missing.
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Festivals:

EIFF 2009
EIFF 2017

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If you like this, try:

Mum And Dad