Tony; or Roman: Portrait Of A Serial Killer

The British made Tony is a creepy little psychological thriller about a socially inept man trying to get by in the big city of London. Tony is an average bloke. He watches action films religiously, reads porno mags on the toilet and makes small talk with whoever he can. “Which do you think is better, karate or kung fu?” he asks the Asian bootleg DVD seller on the street. He also hasn’t had a job ever, tries to pay prostitutes to snuggle with him and enjoys a Coca-Cola at the local gay club where he takes boys home with him and beats their fucking heads in with a hammer!

The film’s settings are the council estates in London where Tony lives in a bleak little apartment with very little of anything in it aside from a television to watch his action videos and a couple couches. The character and his habitat are both reminiscent of Lucky McGee’s titular character in Roman. Both are socially awkward men who live alone in crappy apartments and get picked on and fucked with by pretty much everyone they come in contact with. Both also have the one female neighbor that take a liking to them. In Tony’s case it’s his neighbor Dawn who comes to Tony for a bandage for her cut finger. After he fixes her up and gives her a glass of squash she invites him over the next Sunday for roast. Sweet lady. Over the course of the film Tony also encounters a large angry drunk man at the pub, a couple of junkies trying to score dope, someone from the TV License Authority, and the same large angry drunk man on the street, who has taken a liking to fucking with Tony every chance he gets.

Another film Tony recalls is Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer with its grit and pace. Like Henry, the film moves along at a leisurely pace slowly leading up to maniacal little outbursts. The whole thing works really well, because you’re so intrigued by this creepy, awkward mess of a man who you almost don’t remember is a lunatic until he’s putting a plastic bag over someone’s head or beating someone with the aforementioned hammer. You almost feel sorry for him, much like with Henry and Roman. They’re all just a little too awkward and weird for anyone to really be comfortable with.

Writer/director Gerard Johnson does a great job on this, his first feature-length film. Credit also goes to the cinematographer David Higgs, whose previous work includes RockN’Rolla and the Shaun Of The Dead-with- vampires flop Lesbian Vampire Killers. The camerawork is what really gives Tony the uneasy feeling it carries throughout. There’s some absolutely beautiful (and creepy as fuck) shots in and around his apartment and of the neighborhood he haunts in general. One very brief scene in an elevator, just before the door closes, is breathtaking. Couple the camerawork with the original score, which was done by none other than Matt Johnson of The The (Seriously, if you aren’t familiar with The The you should be ashamed of yourself. Go out and get a copy of “Mind Bomb”… now!), and you have a near perfect atmosphere.

Johnson knows how to balance the uncomfortable awkwardness of everyday Tony with the horrific insanity of Tony when he snaps, and he adds an underlying sense of humor and heart to the film as well. It’s nice to see a film that can be brutal when it needs to be, without crossing the line into torture porn or Rob Zombie territory. It’s equally nice that a film can be subtle and moody without being boring.  Tony hits US DVD shelves on April 6th, I highly recommend you check it out.

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