Combustible Celluloid
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With: Liam Hemsworth, Emory Cohen, Diane Guerrero, Zlatko Buric, Suraj Sharma, Nickola Shreli, Mike Moh, John Cenatiempo, Souleymane Sy Savane, Stivi Paskoski, Richie Ng
Written by: Malik Bader
Directed by: Malik Bader
MPAA Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, drug material and some sexuality
Running Time: 112
Date: 09/05/2019

Killerman (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Crime Bomb

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It has a few potent moments, but this jerky, vulgar crime drama fails to use its amnesia theme for any kind of creative storytelling or character development; it's merely overlong and predictable.

In Killerman, Moe (Liam Hemsworth) and Skunk (Emory Cohen) work for Skunk's powerful crime-boss uncle (Zlatko Buric). While preparing to launder a large amount of money, they are ordered to wait. Skunk gets the idea to use the money for a drug deal that could net them a huge profit, before anyone knows what has happened. The deal goes wrong when dirty cops show up. Moe is injured, and loses his memory.

He's even shocked when he discovers that he has a baby on the way, with Lola (Diane Guerrero). The uncle forces the two men to leave town, but before that can happen, the dirty cops grab Skunk, hoping to get their hands on the still-missing cocaine and money. Moe goes on a revenge-fueled rampage, seeking to set things right. But even he doesn't quite realize what secrets are buried in his lost memory.

Written and directed by Malik Bader, Killerman does a fine job of painting its grimy, crime-ridden urban atmosphere, with Buric's haywire performance as the hot-and-cold crime boss at the center. But the annoying shaky-cam, the constant stream of f-bombs, and the nasty, one-dimensional bad guys also make it a rather unpleasant watch. Hemsworth is another problem; he seems badly miscast and out-of-place; he can't even pretend to be a money launderer without looking suspicious.

Yet another flaw is the criminal underuse of Guerrero (Orange Is the New Black), who shows up for maybe two scenes and serves only as a catalyst for the hero. (This is further undermined by an earlier, gratuitous sex scene between Moe and an anonymous bar girl.) Conversely, the "bromance" between Moe and Skunk is kept at arm's length.

The amnesia aspect, which could have been used to drop us into Moe's world and help us identify with him, is instead simply introduced at the end of the third act and almost ignored throughout; it's used mainly to reveal a "surprise" at the end, which is all too easy to spot early. Killerman could have been a vibrant, unique crime story, but instead it's drearily routine.

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