When one casts a perfunctory glance at the advertising of Martin Owen's crime caper Killers Anonymous, its arresting posters and front-and-centre marketing of three immediately recognisable stars and its entertaining central idea, one may think that this film is almost destined to entertain. Look past the flash, however, and the lustre fades - and the end result is a film that may indeed entertain, albeit for reasons contrary to what its makers intended, provided you can stand to see it without slipping into the relative comfort of a boredom-induced stupor or staring quizzically at the screen as the story descends into needless convolution.
The premise, such as it is, is as follows: Jade (Jessica Alba), a hitwoman, bungles an assassination op on an up and coming US senator. After being taken to task by an enigmatic figure known only as 'The Man', an invitation to the eponymous group is extended, which is effectively a means for hardened murderers to gather and discuss the particulars of their dirty work. As a gaggle of criminals convene, tensions rise and mystery mounts, security remains on high alert in the wake of the earlier botched job, and an elaborate web of scheming and hidden connections is unravelled to ensure that nothing is what it seems.
Sounds fun? Well, the concept of fun is relative - skinny-dipping in the Thames might be fun for those of masochistic inclinations, provoking alligators may be fun for those who enjoy living dangerously, and the initial sales pitch of this misguided affair is the only element of the entire film that can be viewed as fun. Despite that, the thrust of the plot is quick to show its limitations - plenty of films across history have excelled in confining most of the action to the confines of a single room, going as far back as Twelve Angry Men, but this is far from 's masterwork. In having a vaguely interesting elevator pitch as the starting point, the story swiftly gutters out to consist of a collection of interminably dull conversations between thoroughly detestable characters that only serve to bloat the film's brisk running time of 96 minutes and to leave anyone watching wishing that those involved were thrown behind bars.
The narrative is a convoluted ungainly mess, a confused beast of a script that finds itself entangled in a thick morass of misdirection, red herrings and attempts at suspense and intrigue that fall flatter than punctured tires and leave the film stumbling in all directions without a satisfactory resolution. The idea the film is founded upon ultimately proves to be far too big for its boots, and transforms into a labyrinthine monstrosity too incompetently sewn together to address its own setups and too obsessed with mystery to rein itself in, all while focusing on some of the blandest and most execrable souls committed to fiction.
The characters are, by far, the worst offenders in this heap, and in more ways than their odious nature. Killers Anonymous attempts to ape other, more accomplished directors at every turn conceivable, chiefly Tarantino. Tarantino has often defined his films and characters both by rapid-fire exchanges between people, seemingly impromptu and occasionally laden with non-sequiturs. This happens here, but the difference is that Tarantino and his co-workers polish the script, iron out their performances so that they are without creases, and often display impeccable chemistry. Here, the effort is entirely unconvincing as talented actors are given table scraps to work with. The dialogue is long-winded, drab and tasteless, only a handful play off of each other with any success, and most crucially, because of the blunders with writing, none of the characters involved are deserving of any kind of investment or empathy. The issue here is that the film eschews a more traditional narrative structure to cut the story up into segments focusing on each member of the circle so that the audience better understands their pain and profession, so buckle up, because you'll be in the company of these remorseless planks of wood for the duration. The only bright spark to be salvaged from this is that the performances of the actors generally dissolves into a slurry of overracting as the feature drags on, each trying to out-yell, out-leer and out-mug each other in a series of events that can be at least charitably described as amusing. What talent exists is utterly wasted. Alba and Oldman grace the posters with their presence but the former is barely seen and the latter spends most of his time seated watching action through a pair of binoculars, and accomplished performers like Tommy Flanagan, Tim McInnerny and Suki Waterhouse are squandered in their one-note roles, even if some - like Rhyon Nicole Brown - do their damndest to make something out of the nothing that they have been provided.
Aside from her and Oldman, who turns in the only other performance worth mentioning even if his role is primarily sedentary in nature, and fragments of cinematography here and there, the rest of the production scarcely merits mentioning - the score is bland, the direction humdrum, the entire product sapped of energy, leaving behind only a grey, sterile thing that will leave your mind as soon as it has entered it.
I cannot begin to guess at this film's origins - perhaps its director attempted to create an homage to its predecessors, perhaps it was something Gary Oldman decided to take on out of boredom - but regardless of the intentions, the sentence this films receives was obvious from the first; this collection of killers deserves only to be placed in solitary confinement, condemned to be remembered only as an exercise in ennui.