Serial killer Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) lives in Tokyo where he picks up women and murders them on camera before uploading the videos to the internet. Journalist Bayu (Oka Antara), living in Jakarta, watches these videos and then accidentally becomes a murderer during an attempted robbery and rape. After uploading the video of the self-defence Nomura contacts Bayu and they strike up an uneasy relationship.
Killers is part slasher film and part revenge movie, wrapped together in an attempted commentary on on screen violence. Well-made and acted, it’s an interesting piece whose ideas never fully come together to create a completely satisfying whole.
The film takes a little while to get going. Its main problem is the fact that its main characters inhabit different stories and the film has to try and follow them both at the same time without much of a connection between them, essentially making it a film of two halves. Nomura’s story is a fairly familiar one of the serial killer, abducting, hunting and killing his victims, while filming his work. It is raised above this standard slasher film fare a little by giving us more to his character, fleshing out the reasons for what he does and it also shows him as a more human murderer than a lot of horror antagonists. He isn’t a streamlined killing machine, sometimes he stumbles and fails, and there are even moments he tries to connect with others as a regular human being, his attempted courtship of a florist and his questionable advice to her autistic brother inevitably souring as his damaged and misanthropic self rears its head. However, it is still the slightly less interesting story of the two. Bayo’s story is a bit more interesting. Bayo is a journalist, currently down on his luck following his attempt to report on an abusive and powerful celebrity which ended with him losing his job and his family. When two thugs attempt to rob and rape him he fights back and ends up killing the both of them, becoming a reluctant vigilante. He films the aftermath of the killing and uploads it to the internet where Nomura finds it. This act leads him down the path of taking revenge and seeking justice against the man who ruined his life. Bayo’s story is more interesting because it tackles the moral line of whether killing is ever morally and ethically justifiable and it shows the effects that killing has on the Bayo, ostensibly just a regular guy who life has dealt a bad hand, and it shows what happens as his killing spirals out of control. What starts out as him taking back control and getting revenge ends up estranging him further from his family and affecting his psyche. I hoped for more of an interaction between Bayo and Nomura than we got, the relationship never really playing out as much as it could have, and the wait for them both to meet on screen is a bit too long, and with a running time of over two hours, the same could be said for the film itself.
Bayo’s story tackles this more realistic idea of revenge in a similar fashion to the wonderful Blue Ruin, which was out earlier in the year. They are both revenge stories that don’t glamourise the act of vengeance as so many revenge films do. Bayo seems to think that he can do this and that what he is doing is right, but the psychological toll and the way it spirals out of control confront the viewer with a much more realistic truth. The film also attempts to say something about violence on screen and the real violence that can be found in the darker recesses of the internet, something quite relevant at the moment with headlines being given to the awful recent journalist executions. Unfortunately, this isn’t explored as fully as I would have hoped, the theme dropping in at points, especially during the ending. It might have played out better had there been a bit more focus added to the fact that there were murders turning up on the internet, like having them make the news or letting the viewer see them spreading through social media.
A little disappointing but still an interesting and worthwhile watch, Killers has some good acting and production, a little black humour, and enough ideas to keep you interested enough through its running time.