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DVD SAVANT

The Killing Kind
aka Mr. In-Between


The Killing Kind
Lion's Gate
2001 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 98 min. / Mr In-Between / Street Date February 10, 2004 / 24.99
Starring Andrew Howard, Geraldine O'Rawe, David Calder, Saeed Jaffrey, Clive Russell, Andrew Tiernan, Mark Benton, Clint Dyer
Cinematography Haris Zambarloukos
Production Designer Matthew Davies
Film Editor Eddie Hamilton
Original Music Jennie Muskett
Written by Peter Waddington from a novel by Neil Cross
Produced by Andreas Bajohra, Michael Cowan, Alex Marshall, Yvonne Michael, Jason Piette, Bob Portal, David Rogers, Clive Waldron
Directed by
Paul Sarossy

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Mr. In-Between used to be that guy in the song Ac-cent-chu-ate the Positive, the one you aren't supposed to mess with. The song's not here, but the guy is. This is a slick but hollow crime movie about that most misunderstood of modern heroes, the Hit Man with a Heart.

It's a fairly accomplished, handsome-looking feature made by a consortium of small companies that probably intended better things for it than to end up retitled The Killing Kind. The beginning of the show is a string of company logos - at least four - that play like a small animation festival. They also account for the tossed salad of producers that clog the credit block. Such is the price of starting a directing career today.

Synopsis:

Hit Man Jon (Andrew Howard) does unspeakable murders for the effite intellectual monster called "Tattooed Man" (David Calder) while fighting his unhappiness with booze and drugs. He reconnects with penniless school chum Andy (Andrew Tiernan) and attempts to "adopt" Andy and his welfare family. But Andy's wife Cathy (Geraldine O'Rawe) is clearly attracted to Jon. Worse, Tattooed Man resents Jon forming other attachments. What's a post-modern conscienceless assassin to do?

The Killing Kind is one of those crime pictures that place a highly dubious personal conflict against a backdrop of slick, Michael Mann expressionist-school settings. Jon lives in rooms without furniture. The ominous crimelord occupies a cavernous space that's always clammy and dripping wet, but looks attractive on film. Andrew Howard's fastidious killer Jon is a neatness freak who in an older film would qualify as a Nazi automaton.

Here he's the protagonist and we're supposed to empathize with his existential dilemma. He slaughters his targets left and right for a bizarre megalomaniac who spouts Nietzschian doubletalk and collects tattoos of the faces of his victims on his body as mementoes. The idea is that his power is all encompassing, that he's the center of a trio of criminal untouchables. A towering albino (Clive Russell) has the fix in with the police, and a stocky Indian (Saeed Jaffrey in a role that equates foreign-ness with evil) is handy with drugs. The whole setup is freeze-dried David Lynch, complete with polite niceties ("It's tea time.") clashing with abominable threats and tortures. Tattooed Man's ultimate statement is that his world of vice and evil is reality, and the world of working stiffs and ordinary morality is just a fantasy.

Poor Jon gets involved with an old friend, and rather conveniently with the old friend's wife. Such sentiments are incompatible with his commitment to Tattooed Man, for whom he carves people up with a set of surgeon's tools he carries in a valise. Jon was already such a substance-abusing wreck that it's a wonder he could function, but now he commits the cardinal sin of trying to be human.

The reason The Killing Kind doesn't appeal is because these ideas, however well presented by the actors, are trite. The "guilty" criminal has been a fallback theme ever since The Gangster in 1947. A tenet of the gangster film is that the moment a mobster shows the weakness of loving somebody or making a commitment to anything but the criminal hustle, he's finished. The Killing Kind treats the idea as if it were a new revelation, and doesn't back it up with anything. A nihilistic ending wraps things up in a downbeat fashion similar to the science fiction film A Boy and His Dog. Have a moral dilemma? Just choose the most cynical and black ending possible. Dead bodies leave the screen clean and don't require having people relate to each other in dialogue. Pointedly, the film's writer plays a Priest who reacts to killer Jon's moral solution by throwing up.

The acting is okay, with Jon's unlucky friends Geraldine O'Rawe and Andrew Tiernan having an edge because they play recognizable humans. Ms. O'Rawe is very good, considering her character is one of those male fantasies, the kind of woman attracted to brutes that lash out like vipers when not stewing in fashionable angst. David Calder almost makes Tattooed Man more than a screenwriter's conceit, a gargoyle handing out ice cream cones as he orders his underlings to their doom. Mark Benton's likeable Phil threatens to do something unpredictable, but also has a proscribed cynical function to fulfill. An air of easily-bought fatality discourges identification with any of the characters.

Director Sarossy was a longtime cameraman for Atom Egoyan and gives the picture a glossy polish. But the violent scenes aren't handled with any particular flair and overall the show comes off as an overachieving straight-to-video feature. The soundtrack is peppered with dreamlike tunes from Nick Cave and David Bowie.


Lion's Gate may have changed the title to the The Killing Kind because Mr. In-Between didn't sound like a humorless crime picture. The title The Killing Kind is already strongly associated with an interesting Robert Aldrich movie from the early 70s, however. The enhanced transfer is very handsome and shows the carefully-shot feature off to its best advantage.

The extras all identify the movie as Mr. In-Between. The making-of featurettes come off as auditions for the director and producers. All believe in earnest that this is an important picture. There are also two full-length commentaries by the director and the writer & producer that may be interesting to aspiring filmmakers.

The cover art is a meaningless pastiche that probably makes the filmmakers wince, but the theatrical art (pictured) doesn't offer much either.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, rates:
Movie: Fair +
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Director and 'production' commentaries, featurette.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 27, 2004





DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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