J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Suicide Theory: Not a DIY Kind of Thing

Poor, pitiable Percival is sort of like Larry Talbot. He is convinced he cannot be killed. However, he can be disfigured and maimed—and he has the scars from past suicide attempts to prove it. Somehow, he has developed a New Agey notion that a wildly unstable contract killer is the man who can get the job done, because of their fateful connections. Maybe it makes sense or maybe it doesn’t, but it provides the unlikely foundation of a strange pseudo-friendship in Dru Brown’s The Suicide Theory (trailer here), which opens today in the Los Angeles area.

Steven Ray kills people, when he is not wallowing in grief over his late wife’s hit-and-run death. He first met Percival when the suicidal artist took a header off a building onto Ray’s cab. At first, Ray assumes Percival’s self-ordered hit will be easy money, but alas no. Of course, he dismisses the notion that he can only whack his client when he is in such a good frame of mind, he temporarily wants to live again. Yet, in spite of his better judgement, Ray starts to wonder when Percival survives his multiple gunshot wounds to the head. As he confers with his unhappy customer, Ray actually starts to like the lovelorn, guilt-ridden, open-sore of a person. He also starts to question some of his own life choices.

“You’re lucky to be alive” is the film’s designated punch line—and it often works rather well in context. In fact, Theory is pretty darned entertaining when it sticks to the pitch black humor and grimy noir atmosphere. Oddly enough, Brown’s attempts to wrap it all up in a cosmic package somewhat dilutes the grungy fun. Still, Steve Mouzakis’s stone cold deadpan delivery gives Ray a flinty edge, even more than his voluminous tics and quirks. He also develops some decidedly distinctive buddy chemistry with Leon Cain’s increasingly battered Percival.

To be fair, Brown fits his ironic pieces together quite dexterously. Nonetheless, the film is more entertaining when reveling in its brutish urban jungle environment rather than trying to make cosmic connections. At its best, Theory is sort of like early Tarantino without the self-conscious pop culture riffing. It is somewhat uneven down the stretch, but overall, it’s not bad, even if you have seen a whole lot of indie thrillers. Recommended as a decent little VOD discovery, The Suicide Theory opens today (7/10) at the Music Hall 3 in Beverley Hills and also launches on iTunes.

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