A series of horrific murders just went viral, posted anonymously by the handsome and seductive Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura), a predator with a taste for torture. Thousands of miles away, disgraced journalist Bayu (Oka Antarra) can't stop watching – and in a reckless moment discovers he, too, can kill. One man in Tokyo. One in Jakarta. A serial killer and a vigilante. As the posts multiply and the body count rises, a bizarre and psychotic rivalry begins – and the face-to-face showdown that's coming will paint the city in blood.
Horror/Thrillers have a rough sub-genre that involves viscerally brutal and extreme acts of violence. Films the likes of 'Cannibal Holocaust,' 'Ichi The Killer,' or even 'Oldboy' are notorious films for their particular depiction of violence. Some would dub movies that revel in the suffering of others "torture porn," but I find myself leaning to the friendlier term "Terror Films." Terror films aren't meant to entertain you with intense depictions of violence but in fact are intended to elicit a feeling of thankfulness that you're not in the situation being depicted and work towards helping you appreciate how good you've got it. Then you have movies like 'Killers,' a film where the violence is beyond brutal and is just a celebration of cruelty with absolutely zero redeeming value beyond an interesting story premise. This is a true torture porn film.
Nomura, Kazuki Kitamura, is a dashing, rich Japanese business man who has no trouble wooing the ladies. He picks them up in his flashy sports car, takes them to his expensive apartment, wines them, dines them, beds them and then tortures and murders them. Only he doesn't just kill them, he takes his time terrorizing them, showing these women a variety of painful implements he can employ to prolong their pain all the while he records everything on video. Once the deed is done, he edits the video clips together, visits a public internet cafe, and then uploads the file to a YouTube like site to the delight of millions of viewers.
One such viewer is Bayu, Oka Takanashi, a Jakartan reporter who has recently been disgraced for failing to bring down a corrupt politician. He still tries to fight the good fight but as his wife and daughter are moving on without him and his only employment comes as a stand in cameraman. Bayu's prospects aren't improving. After being nearly robbed, beaten, raped and killed by a pair of hijackers in a taxi cab, Bayu scratches the surface of his own murderous tendencies when he kills the two men in self defense. Only it goes a bit beyond self defense when he records the death of one of the men and sends it to Nomura's online persona as a sort of fan letter.
What ensues is a mentor student relationship as Nomura trains the amateur Bayu how to hone his skills and also how to properly upload his videos without detection pleasing tens of millions of viewers around the world. Unlike Nomura, Bayu preys on the corrupt officials that plague Jakarta providing some form of justification to his acts. However, as Bayu's abilities improve and his murders become more violent, the thin line of right and wrong he's drawn for himself becomes increasingly blurry.
This was one of the toughest movies I've had to sit through. In all honesty if I didn't have to write this review I would have turned this movie off long before the finish. While the premise is intriguing, a killer essentially using YouTube to mentor another killer in a way that is similar to the Lecter/WIll Graham relationship in NBC's 'Hannibal,' 'Killers' is simply entirely too cruel for cruelty's sake. Other films of this nature usually put the audience in the position of not siding with brutal killers but in fact their victims so people watching feel something for the victim and their suffering. With this one, we're asked to side with the killers and condone their actions as just, even when one of the killers truly murders the innocent and we're made to watch every sadistic action in all its glory. I'm not usually squeamish around violent content. Hell, I've made it through theatrical viewings of 'Cannibal Holocaust' with eyes wide open but 'Killers' was extremely difficult to get through. Something about seeing a woman bound to chair with a plastic bag over her face and getting hit in the head with a hammer within the first five minutes just didn't sit right. Directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto may have had a point to make about the marriage between technology, media and violence - but whatever point they had - I lost all interest when another woman gets savagely beaten to death with a baseball bat, you know, just for kicks!
I don't mean to knock people that can stomach this sort of movie and are better at separating themselves from this sort of violence, but 'Killers' is one extremely brutal movie. I can see friends of mine that have an affinity for brutal content having a difficult time making it through this one. Unless you're a veteran fan of the terror film genre I strongly suggest you stay away. Even if you think you can handle the violence, I just didn't see anything else here in the story that is even worth the time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Killers' makes it's way to Blu-ray thanks to Well Go USA pressed on a Region A locked BD25 disc. After a couple of trailers for other Well Go USA releases, 'Killers' opens to a main menu that features an animated background image with music from the film playing throughout.
While viscerally unpleasant, Well Go USA continues it's habit of presenting a decent HD image on Blu-ray with 'Killers.' Shot digitally, 'Killer's exhibits a strong amount of detail - even in some scenes you may wish were a bit softer. Detail is only lost in a few sequences where some purposeful color grading towards grey or blue were employed for dramatic effect. Through most scenes, colors have a strong pop and natural feel to them, especially in daylight sequences like in the flower shop for example. The color red in particular gets its own ooey gooey form of appreciation. Black levels are also equally impressive lending to a strong three dimensional feel in many scenes. It may be a brutally unpleasant movie but the picture quality can be beautiful during some of the more sane scenes.
With a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, 'Killers' gets some points. The spoken languages throughout are Japanese, English, and Indonesian. Thankfully, there is a fairly accurate reading English subtitle track in place. Even as a surround track, sounds keep to the center channels and only move about during the more squishy sequences. Sound effects, dialogue, screams of terror and thundering music keep to the midranges and are easily heard unless there is an artistic reason on screen why you shouldn't be able to. As much as I may not like the movie, I can't deny being impressed by the sound design that this audio track recreates on Blu-ray.
Trailer: (HD 1:49) This is the same trailer that has been playing in front of other Well Go USA titles for the last couple months now. It's a pretty tame but accurate depiction of what you can expect from this movie.
Brutality in cinema is nothing new. 'I Spit On Your Grave,' 'The Last House On The Left,' not to mention dozens of other foreign releases that have come out over the years have all had an unpleasentness to them, but still offered some sort of allegory or metaphor through their depiction of brutality. Brutality is one thing, but absolute cruelty is a completely different game and 'Killers' revels in its depictions of cruelty. I could almost forgive this approach if the premise to the movie was compelling enough and provided a sense of justification. Only there is no reasonable justification here, not even when you get to witness a pedophile being lit on fire after being beaten with a pistol. This release from Well Go USA offers a solid HD transfer with a very strong DTS-HD surround track - I just wish the movie was worth this level of effort. I honestly can not recommend 'Killers' - even to the curious. I'm off to watch a marathon of 'The Three Stooges' shorts to see if I can't relocate my smile. Skip it.