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Film Review: ‘Killers’

The Mo Brothers' repugnantly savage and arguably immoral pic takes torture porn to new levels of cinematic sophistication.

With:

Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Ersya Aurelia. (English, Japanese, Indonesian dialogue)

At two-and-a-quarter hours, “Killers” has plenty to offer genre fans — provided they don’t bolt during its opening scene of a tied-up woman being beaten to death with a mallet by Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura), a Tokyo psycho who uploads a video of the murder to his members-only website. Directed by the Mo Brothers, aka Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (“Macabre”), this repugnantly savage and arguably immoral pic takes torture porn to new levels of cinematic sophistication while telling of exhibitionistic serial killers — Nomura and the Jakarta-based Bayu (Oka Antara) — who sickly compete for online clicks. Beware.

Pouring acid on the dead woman’s body while somber string music plays, Nomura proceeds to buy flowers from Hisae (Rin Takanashi), a sweet young lady who’s an obvious victim-to-be — or perhaps a survivor, depending on the Mo Brothers’ TBD level of mercy. In the meantime, Bayu, an unsuccessful journalist and failed husband who’s addicted to streaming Nomura’s disgusting vids, gets the idea to follow suit with the Tokyo nutcase, but in purportedly principled fashion, as Jakarta kingpin Mr. Dharma (Ray Sahetapy) is an alleged domestic abuser ostensibly overdue for payback.

Where countless crime movies have featured shootouts between rival thugs in separate cars, “Killers” stages an epic gun battle inside a single car (in widescreen, yet), with Bayu, sworn enemy of Dharma’s henchmen, barely walking away. Bayu subsequently messages Nomura, who’s eager to believe he has found a kindred killer in the half-dead journo. Indeed, the fledgling murderer breaks into a house to attack a Dharma associate and captures the heinous act on video. As a result, Bayu is targeted by a dozen of Dharma’s henchmen, leading to a wild action scene that’s implausible and inappropriate to what amounts to a slicked-up slasher film.

A ludicrously loud and grinding musical score by Fajar Yuskemal and Aria Prayogi triggers giggles, presumably by design. Gunnar Nimpuno’s vivid cinematography works in tandem with Arifin Marhan Japri’s sharp cutting to lend an upscale feel to the profoundly sleazy proceedings. With Bayu’s young daughter (Ersya Aurelia) as a potential victim, an action-filled climax set near the top of a skyscraper under construction touts the expert production design of Satoko Saito and Rico Marpaung, and recalls classic John Woo in its operatic twists. Across the board, tech credits are as accomplished as the film’s content is utterly depraved.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Killers'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 23, 2014. Running time: 137 MIN.

Production:

(Japan-Indonesia) An XYZ Films production in co-production with Nikkatsu, Guerilla Merah Films. (International sales: XYZ Films, Marina del Rey.) Produced by Yoshinori Chiba, Kimo Stamboel, Shinjiro Nishimura, Takuji Ushiyama, Timo Tjahjanto. Executive producers, Naoki Sato, Keizo Yuri, Akifumi Sugihara, Kenjiro Toba, Daniel Mananta, Samien Lim, Kerenina Sunny, Rangga Maya Barack-Evans, Gareth Huw Evans, Andrew Suleiman, Stephen Odang, Bernhard Subiakto, Aoura Lovenson Chandra, Damon Hakim. Co-producer, Fauzar Nurdin.

Crew:

Directed by Timo Tjahjanto, Kimo Stamboel. Screenplay, Tjahjanto, Takuji Ushiyam. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Gunnar Nimpuno; editor, Arifin Marhan Japri; music, Fajar Yuskemal, Aria Prayogi; production designers, Satoko Saito, Rico Marpaung; art director, Adher Rusman; set decorators, Hirohide Shibata, Gemi Nuramdhiani; costume designer, Kazuhiro Sawataishi; sound, Yusuf Patawari, Hidetoshi Gokon; re-recording mixer, Sergey Groshev; stunt coordinators, Masayoshi Deguchi, Eka “Piranha,” Ubay “Piranha,” Saad, Boy, Berlin; line producer, Ray Farandi Pakpahan; associate producers, Tomoo Fukatsu, Lim Young Chien; assistant directors, Gaku Nagao, Ginanti Rona Tembang Asri; casting, Stanlee Saklil.

With:

Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya, Ray Sahetapy, Ersya Aurelia. (English, Japanese, Indonesian dialogue)

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