The masked man swings his mallet, smashing in the skull of his beautiful, young captive. He then dumps her body in a bathtub and dissolves the remains in acid. These opening minutes of Killers are the most brutal in the film, which makes a habit out of its leering violence and torture. Directed by Indonesian duo The Mo Brothers (Macabre), the film follows a Tokyo businessman with a dark side and the Jakarta journalist who discovers his crimes. The men share a dark bond, and each begins tracking the other in a tricky game of cat and mouse. The violence is uncomfortable and the suspense is nauseating, but the story is predictable. This is a stylish, brutal thriller that escapes the memory quickly.
Straight-laced by day, unhinged by night, Nomura Shuhei (Kazuki Kitamura) has seemingly tortured and killed dozens of women. He picks them up with his good looks and charm before savaging them in full view of his Web cam, which broadcasts to underbelly chat rooms. While trying to out a corrupt politician, Bayu Aditya (Oka Antara) stumbles upon Nomura's broadcast. An unexpected encounter leads Bayu to kill, too, and he begins to understand the sick power and high Nomura achieves each time he takes a life. The killer takes an interest in the journalist's extracurricular activities, and becomes a teacher of sorts. Nomura takes it a step further by requesting to meet Bayu in the flesh.
Killers portrays Nomura as the weaker man. He is incapable of operating if his victims fight back, and only holds the upper hand when they are subdued and dying. Nomura also has compulsions and obsessions that derail his life. Bayu's resolve is greater, though his work ethic costs him his family. The tables-turning plot is an interesting start, but I wish the Brothers had taken it a step further. I knew immediately that various supporting characters would become trapped in the violent web, so a couple of late game surprises fell flat. There is a lot of side action, too, which could have been trimmed without hurting the core story. The best moments come as Bayu watches in horror as Nomura nearly kills a woman then leaves the room, giving her a chance to escape. Things do not go well.
The repetitive stalk-hurt-kill scenes with Nomura and some unnecessary exposition in Jakarta bloat the film to 137 minutes and the pacing suffers. Those turned off by rampant violence should not press play. Otherwise, the acting from the leads is excellent. Both actors play twisted, sad, complicated men believably. Rin Takanashi is also very good as a young florist who becomes an uneasy friend to Nomura. The Mo Brothers achieve an uncomfortably intimate mood when necessary, and then open the frame with gorgeous wide shots of complicated setups. This is a very slick, good-looking film. A little editing and a couple of narrative changes might have rendered Killers a classic.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is strong. This is a very dark movie, and black levels and shadow detail are impressive. Fine-object detail is abundant, as is texture in fabrics and landscapes. Wide shots are crisp and clear, and colors are nicely saturated. I noticed some minor aliasing and a few slightly blurry pans.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is actually a mix of Indonesian, Japanese and English, which is quite unique! Dialogue is crisp and clear, whether delivered from the center channel or directionally. Ambient effects surround the viewer, and there are quite a few violent action effects that rumble the subwoofer and pan through the surrounds. The score is balanced appropriately with effects and dialogue. English subtitles are available, as is a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
A slipcover replicates the striking cover art. This single-disc release only includes the film's Theatrical Trailer (2:29/HD).
The Mo Brothers weave a dark, twisted tale of murder and exploitation with Killers. A sadist and the journalist on his trail come face to face in this continent-spanning thriller that is intense and well shot. The pacing and narrative are not perfect, but Killers is unsettling entertainment. Recommended.