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Tony

Other // Unrated // April 6, 2010
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted February 25, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Tony:
When we say a movie will 'divide' an audience, it usually means half will like it, half won't. That probably won't cut it for Tony, which bears passing resemblance to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer as directed by Mike Leigh. Even cinematic Pollyannas inclined to call this film some sort of triumph will probably be in the tenth percentile, while the rest - especially those encountering a tough time deciphering the accents - will be confused, disheartened, depressed or left wanting. If a divisive film can be seen as one that stays true to its vision, thus meriting praise in the face of possible division, then Tony really gets it right. You'll just have to gauge your need to be politely brutalized and depressed by another artful indictment of hollow British society.

At about 70-minutes, Tony doesn't have much time to burn in showing us the titular character's life. Tony's an odd bloke with weird helmet hair and the shell-shocked look of Roddy McDowell. His tiny flat is as bland and depressing as you can imagine. Two grotty chairs, a couch and a tiny TV on which to watch action movies form the extent of the d├ęcor, all highlighted by blank white walls. Tony spends his days wandering the streets in a black trench coat, or gawping at angry soccer yobs in the pubs. He's been on the government dole for twenty years, and sees no reason to change: "How'd you like a job scrubbing toilets? Meeting people?" his employment officer asks. It's hard to discern Tony's edge, but he dulls it anyway by occasionally bludgeoning people with a hammer, and dismantling them in the sink.

And that's about the size of it. Tony goes from situation to situation; managing to pick a bloke up in a gay bar, falling in with a couple of druggies, and walking slowly around quite suspiciously throwing odd parcels in the river. There's no particular rhyme or reason to Tony's actions, no back-story - aside from unemployment - to explain his murderous ways, not even an understanding of why people might willfully come into his orbit. Yet Tony's vacuousness is oddly compelling. Absent his nebbish-wear, he might be considered attractive, and the horror of his blank slate can be seen as an invitation to write your own story there. Yet in the end Tony looks like another withering salvo fired at failed Labour Party policies that seem to have created endless, hopeless unemployment, blight and alienation.

In this world where human interaction can be seen to be fueled only by the angry respite of drugs, drink and violence, why not spend your afternoons dissecting viscera and carefully packaging it in newspaper? And in the bleak world of Tony there are no openings to connect to anyone, either. Each performance is competent, believable, and convincing, yet with no handholds to grasp, that's all that can be said for the work. These are real, bland, unlikable people, none moreso than Tony, played with chilly realism by Peter Ferdinando. Trouble is (especially with our subtitle-less screener disc) that it's hard to understand much of what's being said through thick accents - not that it seems much of import is said, anyway. Another problem is that the beautiful, effective score by Matt Johnson (The The) seems to have been mixed in too loud, often intruding on the dialog.

Overall, difficulties in understanding seem academic. This film, incorrectly billed as a thriller, is a bleached, uncompromising view at the outskirts of British life, a place no person in his or her right mind should want to even visit. There certainly aren't any thrills in the movie or its character's lives (Tony himself seems merely compelled to kill occasionally, taking no particular pleasure in it). Fear fails to appear either, even as Tony makes his pathetic attempts at relating. Even gorehounds will find emptiness within these mostly bloodless killings. Tony's abject loneliness and pure disconnection suffuses the film like exhaust-choked air that will never clear.

The DVD

Video:
Sadly, some studios persist in releasing no-frills DVD-R screeners of their product. DVD Talk readers are as interested in the product as they are in the quality of the film - it's like trying to sell a car but refusing your customer the chance to give it a test drive. That said, Tony comes to us in a 1.78:1 ratio, with washed out colors and a grainy, low-quality picture that likely has little to nothing to do with the final product.

Sound:
Audio, likewise, can't be commented upon, except to note that the music may be mixed too loud. It is a great pleasure to find out what the formidable Matt Johnson has been up to, however.

Extras:
Zero extras are included, either.

Final Thoughts:
Tony takes alienation and murder to an entirely new level of disconnect. Aside from the title character's body-part dumps being entirely too suspicious, there are no missteps in this bleak film. Then again, a thriller without thrills, a horror movie with only queasy dread to share, a slice-of-life featuring no life you'd ever want to experience, is a difficult film to like. Tony's a blasted triumph for people inclined to spend their soulless days deciding whether to kill or commit suicide - that is if they can think at all. Absent any clue as to what final product is like, depression-heads can at least be advised to Rent It.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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