Movie Review: The Suicide Theory
I’m a big proponent of video on demand. For the price of a movie ticket, you can catch hard to find or small-market films. Many genres that are practically extinct at the box office can thrive online. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to smuggle a six-pack into my living room than into theater nine. As an added bonus, it allows us here at Deluxe Video to cover more movies and bring you the review. Everybody wins!
This weekend was a smorgasbord of interesting films holding their big debut on your computer screen. I’ve been really holding a candle for The Suicide Theory after watching the promotional trailers. This film hit the festival circuit last year, but didn’t make enough of a splash to warrant a wide release. VOD stepped in to save the day, so now we can tell you if it was worth the wait: while filled with engaging performances and a tantalizing plot, The Suicide Theory attempts to be a bit too clever for its own good and ends up just missing the mark.
The Suicide Theory (2014)
Steven Ray is a hired killer and all around tough guy whose latest client ends up being more than he bargained for. Reeling from a tragic personal loss, Steven’s life has begun to unravel, and his psychological problems are starting to affect his work. Just as it looks like his life is going to implode, fate drops Percival, an aspiring suicide victim, into his lap. Literally. Percival has tried unsuccessfully to end his own life several times, and his last attempt by jumping off a building lands him right on top of a yellow cab with Steven in it. Somehow the two correspond after Percival survives, and the suicidal man hires the hit man to do the job properly. The only problem is that Percival is apparently immortal.
Through the course of their working relationship, the two men begin to bond. Percival believes that he is cursed with immortality and cannot be killed unless he no longer wants to die. Steven thinks this theory is bullshit, but as attempt after attempt fails, he becomes a reluctant believer. Attempting to improve Percy’s life to the point that he doesn’t crave death is a tall order: Percival has also lost somebody tragically, and Steven’s attempts to fill that hole continually backfire. As the pair develop a friendship, the nature of their similar losses begins to hint that fate may indeed be shoving Steven and Percival together for an important and lethal reason.
A Couple of Characters
Steven, played by Steve Mouzakis, and Percival, played by Leon Cain, are two intriguing characters, and the nature of their neurosis and haunted pasts drives much of the action of the film. Steven is brash, violent, and cynical. He is a strict determinist; events have causes, and the brute facts of nature are all there is to the world. Percival is an artist who demands meaning from life, even if that meaning is that fate and providence rule our lives and that every coincidence is meaningful. The two characters constantly challenge each others’ preconceived notions, and both men end up changing their views by the end of the film. Mouzakis and Cain give strong performances, and while the rhetoric can become a little overheated at times, their interactions are the real highlight of the film.
Theater of the Bizarre
Director Dru Brown manages to keep the super-natural story line tight and engaging for most of the movie, allowing the absurdity of much of the story to enhance the plot and give it a surreal feeling. Every description of the The Suicide Theory reads like a silly buddy comedy, and it’s a real feat that Brown keeps this film grounded in the gritty, violent world of contract killers and suicide attempts without letting any sentimentality or foolishness derail it. The Suicide Theory certainly has no shortage of moments that are definitely weird, and it would have been very easy to play much of the oddness off for laughs. Brown, however, proceeds as if nothing is amiss, and this adds to the baroque and sinister atmosphere of the piece. I have to give him credit, I can’t imagine many films where a main character wearing his dead wife’s dress and lipstick shoots a man in the street and it feels natural in the context of the story.
Fortune’s Fool (Minor Spoilers)
The Suicide Theory had me really hooked into the absurd story of fate bringing together two desperate and broken persons. Some of the dialogue was heavy-handed, and some of the scenes felt like the script was forcing Steven or Percival to act out of character to advance the plot, but by and large, I was really enjoying myself. Then the final act began, and the plane crashed into the mountain. Mount Silly-Plot-Twists had claimed yet another promising film, killing all aboard.
After spending nearly an hour and a half of creating a fantastical but mostly believable super-natural thriller, The Suicide Theory decided to go for broke and jam a heavy-handed ending onto the movie. The beginning of the movie hints that fate has brought these two together because of their tragic histories, but the ending uses incredible coincidences like a mallet to ruthlessly bash the audience over the head with the message. It felt insulting and a genuine waste, since at one point there is a plausible and fulfilling climax where the film could have stopped and preserved its integrity. Unfortunately, the film keeps going and tries to tie up every loose end with ham-fisted M. Night-style plot twists.
Know When to Quit!
The Suicide Theory had so much right, I hate to knock it for its ending. The film was enjoyable and managed to deftly create a really unique world where the normal rules seemed not to apply. The two leads were great and really helped to sell this fantastical version of life filled with killers and curses. The film is well paced, has a nice visual flair that blends neon colors with brooding darkness, and is punctuated with some very visceral moments of violence. It’s such a shame that all of the silly plot twists came snaking out of the darkness to drag this picture down. There’s the old show-biz adage “leave ’em wanting more” that this film should have taken to heart. I would still recommend this film for its style and charm, but just know that you’re going to want to throw something at the screen by the end of it.