Thursday, February 08, 2018

Tony (2009)

Have you ever gone days without speaking to anyone? Maybe you didn't leave the house for a bit, too. It definitely leaves you feeling slightly disconnected from the world, and aware of everything continuing on around you, regardless. This is basically how our titular main character in Tony exists.

Tony (Peter Ferdinando) has no job, no friends, and his only reliable company is action movies on VHS. He's... an odd chap, so he finds it hard to meet new people; his manner seeming to irritate and/or scare anyone who does ever get particularly close. It's this detachment from people, and the anonymity of London and its boroughs, that makes it easy for Tony to do what he does (kill, keep, and eventually dismember and dispose) and - as far as we know - get away with it.

As someone who spent may years living in London, seeing it displayed in a less than romantic light is really great. The truth of London life, if you're living there as a normal person earning a normal wage, is housing estates, shady looking neighbours and dilapidated buildings. On his many wanders, Tony passes closed down pubs, shop-fronts and unappealing looking blocks of flats (as well as more harmless sights like launderettes and kids playing in the street). 

In amongst the more suburban stuff, we catch glimpses of big London landmarks in the background, like the "Gherkin", Canary Wharf and BT Tower. The city exists all around Tony, the ant hill rumbling along behind it all as he walks, and stalks, and kills. I found this a beautiful and terrifying way of illustrating just how removed from "normal life" an individual can become in a city, with little to no problem (though there is an amusing moment toward the end where Tony is getting grief from the dreaded Television Licence man). This receding back from civilization can work in a loner's favour, as a sort of protection - and this theory is certainly backed up by Tony successfully navigating various situations by either killing his way out or being saved by pure dumb luck.

Tony's kills do become more desperate rather than opportunistic toward the end of the film though, which makes us wonder how much longer he has before someone finally puts two and two together. That said, he's such an invisible presence as he moves through the world, it's also possible that he could continue for years to come. How many killers are operating at any one time in any city? How many have been caught only through fluke or because they wanted to be? Here, Tony does not seem anywhere close to remorseful about what he's doing (he commits murder with a demeanor of pure detached matter-of-factness) so his end will likely come about through being caught, or perhaps killed himself by an underestimated victim.

To make Tony's story even more uncomfortable, Gerard Johnson (who wrote and directed) gives us multiple instances in the film where you kind of feel bad for the guy?! For the most part he's treated like shit if he's noticed at all, and this frustration and sense of further being removed from "normal" people undoubtedly fuels his urge to kill.

The first time we see him he's trying to make small talk to an uninterested DVD seller on the street, and his earnestness and complete inability to read social cues is on full display (see also: watching the arguing couple in the pub). I think this is meant to show him as someone not inherently "evil", it's just that he wants to be part of something... to make a connection, but he lacks the skills to do so successfully. If this is reminding you a little of a serial killer named Dahmer, then yes, there are definite parallels. I'll let you see for yourself to discover just how far those similarities go.

My one gripe about this film is the renaming to Tony: London Serial Killer for certain markets. It's cringe-worthy in its obviousness, and way too on-the-nose for a film so quiet and mundane. "Tony" is one word, one short word, and not even a particularly interesting name... its normality suits the unembellished horror much better.

See, the beauty of Tony is its simplicity. User comments I read (don't ask me why, it's always a mistake isn't it) complained that it was "boring", and "nothing happens". And that's pretty close to being true. If you're the kind of horror fan who needs something to jump or shriek or otherwise spike your blood pressure every few minutes, then this is not going to be an enjoyable movie experience. However if, like me, you love a slow, almost ordinary-feeling film punctuated by violence, Tony is definitely worth checking out.

Streaming on Shudder (I'm doing a 30 day free trial) at time of writing.

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