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Sensitive New Age Killer

Subversive Cinema // Unrated // April 24, 2007
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Greg Elwell | posted May 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Don't watch Sensitive New-Age Killer alone. Not that the film, also called S.N.A.K., is too scary to see by your lonesome. Not at all. But I don't know if you can really appreciate it without friends.

A low-budget action-comedy from Australia, S.N.A.K. does a decent job with a not-too-complicated plot about a hitman and the warped world around him.

Paul Morris (Paul Moder) is a hitman with a conscience. He only kills people who deserve it - kind of the vengeful hand of Karma - though he doesn't think about it too deeply.

He became enamoured with the trade at a boy when he saw a woman saved by famed hitman Colin "The Snake" Adder (Frank Bren) and idolized the man, even keeping pictures of him in his car and on the refrigerator at home for inspiration.

The next we see of Paul, he's just killed a dirty cop, unaware that another police officer - a different kind of dirty - was there, too. Matty (Carolyn Bock) makes Paul strip at gunpoint. Liking what she sees, she strikes a deal. He stays out of jail if she can keep him in her bed.

One of the failings of S.N.A.K. is abuse of time. The film jumps forward a year in time without any explanation, other than Paul and Matty talking about their affair going on for a year. The only reason for the jump? To give Matty time to become attached to Paul, who has been keeping a secret - he's married and has a kid.

He also has a partner who is pure Australian stereotype. George (Kevin Hopkins) wears a dickey and a cheesy moustache. He is trusted by Paul because he saved Paul's life as a child. Their relationship hasn't aged well, at least from George's perspective, because he's trying to get Paul killed.

Paul takes a pair of guns he got from George to a hit on a child rapist and both of them jam. Paul returns to his old-lady mob boss with the bad news and she gives him one more chance to get it right.

Here's another real problem - S.N.A.K. likes to toss a lot of characters at you that have no real meaning to the plot. Some of them are just there for jokes, like a midget mobster who wants people to look up to him. The old lady who ordered the hit seems unhappy, but if there are any consequences to her anger, we don't see them. When George helps screw up the next hit, Paul isn't targeted by the mob, he just doesn't work for them anymore. It seems like she was shoehorned in to make a joke about her having retarded children.

If the jokes were better, it would be fine, but S.N.A.K. is only kind of funny when it tries. The rest of the film's humor comes from unintended sources, like the fight scenes.

At a hit in a warehouse, George calls ahead in an attempt to get Paul killed. Paul's other partner goes down, but the gun battle between Paul and the warehouse crew is laughable. Big blasts come from the guns, but I guess no one thought to put bullets in them, because 100 shots are fired without ever getting close to their intended targets.

Why does George want Paul dead? Turns out he's in love with Paul's wife, Helen Morris (Helen Hopkins), who looks a lot like George's dead mother. This is just the tip of the sickness iceberg for George, it seems. Bizarre bondage, watching his father's suicide and pulling a Keith Richards with mommy's ashes are par for the course.

But things might be turning around for Paul. Matty gives him a tip on a big job that will make his career and help pay them both handsomely. A drug dealer is coming to town and he can take him out - except for one hitch. The Snake has come back to town with the same idea.

What follows is a series of double crosses and a deeper examination of life by Paul, who compares himself to the killer he's idolized for so long.

Paul only kills those who deserve it and treats it like a job, but the Snake loves killing, even listening to his victims' hearts stop with a stethoscope.

"I only feel alive when I'm taking a life," he tells Paul.

S.N.A.K. really picks up in the second half, when the story elements have been established and the filmmaker cuts down on the jokes without meaning. The one that does make it in is hilarious, as George holds the line at a Chinese restaurant while Paul interrogates an employee.

What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in dark humor. S.N.A.K. comes off as an homage to "El Mariachi" and Japanese action flicks. It's not great, but it's not bad. If you watch it, watch with friends, because it's exponentially enjoyable when you're all laughing at the same time.

The Picture

Shown in 1.77:1 widescreen, S.N.A.K. is not an overly pretty movie. There's some overlay as even the title sequence is cut off by the side of the TV. It's muddy in spots and grainy in others, so don't expect anything close to high-def.

Direction by Mark Savage uses the limitations to tell a pretty straightforward story in action sequences, but when he tries to get tricky, it all looks like a student film.

The Sound

Dolby 2.0 sound is unremarkable and requires some fiddling with the volume at times to hear the dialogue. It's low-budget work, to be sure, but when the story gets going, it isn't distracting.

The Extras

Surprisingly, S.N.A.K. is flush with added content. The director commentary is informative, excited and (at times) apologetic. Savage knows what he had to work with and did an admirable job under financial limitations.

There's a "making of" featurette that's pretty interesting. It pretty much confirms what you think watching the film - a guy who loves movies shoestrings a decent little movie together.

A stills gallery and cast and crew bios are included. Nothing too interesting, I'm afraid.

In Other Words...

In the pantheon of great films, Sensitive New Age Killer will not be found. But while this dark action-comedy isn't on par with "Snatch" or any of the Japanese action films it emulates, it does entertain with a weird little story and some none-too-shabby acting.

Don't go out of your way to see this one, but if you're invited over for a viewing, take a chance on S.N.A.K. It's Recommended, especially if you're having drinks with friends.

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