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First Look Review - A Killer Conversation

A burglar takes a couple hostage.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: David VG Davies

Starring: Ryan Hunter, Melanie Denholme, Rudy Barrow



In the opening moments of David VG Davies’ amateurish A Killer Conversation, hapless chump Karl (Ryan Hunter) has his lonely microwave supper of chicken and rice interrupted by a knock at the door. He answers it to find a burglar (we know this because, helpfully, the visitor announces unambiguously ‘I’m a burglar’) who then proceeds to point a gun to Karl’s face, and shoulder his way into his small flat. Instead of shooting Karl, and taking whatever unlikely swag is knocking about his digs, Rudy Barrow’s softy tea-leaf instead ties our hapless hero to a chair, engaging him in small talk. And thus begins a dark comedy of manners, as the two bicker and bond over their absurd predicament, a situation exacerbated by the impromptu arrival of Karl’s domineering ex, Pauline (Melanie Denholme).
In an early example of one the film’s non sequiturs, the burglar claims that he can intuit people’s character through ersatz judgement of their belongings and living space. Curious Karl asks him for an assessment, to which the thief replies, ‘Believe me, you don’t want to hear this’. You see, despite what the ruthless manner of his profession may imply, the thief doesn’t actually want to say unkind and potentially hurtful things to his victim. In fact, he is ‘not comfortable with it’. Well, I know how the guy feels. So hopelessly na├»ve and feeble is A Killer Conversation that pointing out its myriad shortcomings and failures seems cruel and vindictive. It makes one feel uncomfortable.
Shot over three days from a demonstrably meagre budget (loose change and a couple of buttons, it looks like), in the restricted confines of a front room, generosity of spirit should applaud the fact that the film did get made at all. But this applause would be muted. Principally, there’s the acting; Ryan Hunter’s diction and accent is so bizarre that one wonders if English is his first language. The sound design does Hunter’s strangled delivery no favours either, with loud overdubs and white noise competing with an incongruous occasional score. All three actors seem awkward, ill at ease; performing as if they too have guns to their heads (Melanie Denholme does give her all, in fairness). A Killer Conversation has been marketed as a black comedy, and the farcical situation of the film would seem to aspire to this genre, but a clear tone is never maintained, and so what is consistent is the sheer incompetence of the film. Ultimately, it just seems unkind laughing at this; a film that feels less a professional movie, and more like a community project.
Beneath the poor camera work and obdurate performances, the script itself does display certain flashes of promise, however. As the film continued, almost buried beneath the execution, a suggestion of absurdist energy became all but evident in the screenplay. If there is an MVP here, then it is Micheal Haberfelner, with his debut screenplay.  In more capable hands, this script would have been better developed as a half hour play; the twisting cruelty of the characters and the increasingly ridiculous circumstances reminded me of something like Pinter’s comedy of menace, specifically The Birthday Party, with that play’s similar unwelcome intruders and shifting power dynamics.
You will have probably turned off long before such a suggestion occurs though, and it was only professional obligation that encouraged me to stick with it. Forget Karl; the audience is the true victim in A Killer Conversation; mugged of their time and money by this movie.




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