Low-budget comedy thriller “You Can’t Stop the Murders” is an intermittently amusing lark by a group of standup comedians with little or no previous film experience. Central premise of a killing spree in which the victims mirror the band members of ’70s disco icons the Village People is ripe with campy possibilities left largely unexplored. Instead, director Anthony Mir and co-writer/co-stars Gary Eck and Akmal Saleh focus on male friendship, favoring the kind of good-natured ribbing of provincial cluelessness and Australian stereotypes that recall films like “The Castle.” Result is refreshingly rough-edged, though far from consistent, and suffers from severe pacing problems. Young audiences in Oz should tap into the film’s silly sensibility in modest numbers, with limited offshore exposure to follow.
Developed by Mir, Eck and Saleh from a two-minute television sketch, the material will draw inevitable comparison to Fox Searchlight pickup “Super Troopers,” which shared a comedy-team cast, cops as central characters and a similarly uneven laugh rate.
A conscientious cop in a sleepy town outside Sydney, Gary (Eck) loves line-dancing and local TV reporter Julia (Kirstie Hutton), who has her sights set on something bigger than small-town oblivion. His workday revolves around speeding tickets, parking offenses and minor domestic disturbances, as well as listening to the outlandish ideas for a film treatment hatched by his buddy and partner Akmal (Saleh). But when bodies start stacking up, Gary’s experience proves inadequate, necessitating outside help from detective Tony Charles (Mir), a smooth, lady-killer Sydney cop who’s styled himself after Don Johnson in “Miami Vice.”
First victim is a biker passing through town, followed by a construction worker, a sailor from a French male strip revue and a cowboy-and-Indian act performing as part of local festivities during which the line-dancing finals are scheduled. As mutilated corpses start spelling out “YMCA,” and the Village People model becomes clear, only a dead cop remains to complete the scenario.
The humor plays like sketch fodder, and generally could have been much sharper. But the actors’ easygoing affinity and buoyant spirit help counter the script’s patchiness and the sluggish pace. Eck makes an especially likeable lead, while talented physical comedy duo the Umbilical Brothers (Dave Collins and Shane Dundas) impress with their rubberized body contortions as the ill-fated cowboy and Indian. Director Mir does a serviceable job on the visually tidy project despite coming in without any prior film credits. Retro-styled and ’70s Oz-pop tunes punch up the soundtrack.