Director: Malik Bader
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Marcus Anderson, Raquel Aurora, Emory Cohen, Diane Guerrero, Zlatko Buric, Suraj Sharma, Nickola Shreli, Mike Moh, Malik Bader
Runtime: 1 hr 53 mins
Rating: M18 (Coarse Language And Sexual Scene)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 19 September 2019
Synopsis: When NYC money launderer Moe Diamond (Liam Hemsworth) wakes up from a car crash, he's left with no memory, millions in stolen cash, and an insane crew of dirty cops hunting him down. With a stranger who says he's his best friend and a fiancee he doesn't remember, Moe must race against the clock to discover his own identity--and escape his past, before it destroys any chance at a future.
If you like your crime thrillers raw, gritty and violent, then you will surely enjoy the bare-knuckle ride which ‘Killerman’ promises and delivers satisfyingly.
Further establishing himself as a genre specialist following the equally brutal ‘Cash Only’ in 2016, writer-director Malik Bader crafts a suitably pulpy and propulsive film that sees an amnesia-stricken money launderer and his best friend being chased by a bunch of bad cops whom they crossed in a quick-turnover drug deal.
Just the premise alone will already bring to mind the sort of ‘70s/’80s urban crime dramas which Hollywood used to love, and true enough, Bader and his cinematographer Ken Seng prove themselves to be emulating that style right from the beginning by capturing the sort of colours and texture you would shooting New York City’s Manhattan district on 16mm-film.
It is in the heart of that working-class neighbourhood which the jeweller named Moe Diamond (Liam Hemsworth) plies his trade, and over the opening credits, we see how smooth he is running a money laundering operation on the side – turning cash into commodities, and then converting those commodities into a fistful of cashier’s checks for his client. Both he and his buddy Bobby “Skunk” Santos (Emory Cohen) hope to score a million each working for Skunk’s skeevy Uncle Nestor (Zlatko Buric) to pay off politicians for a land deal, but when Nestor unexpectedly hits pause on the assignment, they decide to use the $2 million already on their hands to take on a drug deal.
Inevitably, that deal goes awry when their trade with a group of African drug dealers turns out to be an ambush by some crooked police officers – led by ‘Cash Only’s’ Nickola Shreli. In the midst of the ensuing car chase, Skunk crashes their getaway vehicle and causes Moe to suffer a concussion that causes him to lose all memory about his life and loved ones. To Bader’s credit, the well-worn memory-loss plot device isn’t overplayed; instead, after going through the motion of Moe trying to piece together the parts of his previous life, the latter half of the movie has both Moe and Buddy being pushed to the edge as the cops they crossed grow increasingly desperate at recovering the drugs (which they stole from evidence) and the cash.
Like we said at the start, it does get pretty violent: not only will the cops be torturing Buddy and their other accomplice held inside dog cages, they also prove to have no qualms shooting someone in the face within the confines of a car. Because Moe has presumably no reference of what sort of person he was before, the chain of events causes him to become even more ruthless, and before the movie is over, he’ll be cutting off limbs and heads for revenge. There is also a late twist which, while some may perceive as contrived, is we feel a cool turn-of-events that reinforces the sort of no-holds-barred technique which Bader has clearly adopted, and even manages to make the title of the movie sound less cliched than you may initially think it to be.
As long as you know what you’re in for, and are willing to go along for the ride, ‘Killerman’s’ firm grasp of the pleasures of the crime drama will not disappoint. Coupled with suitably charismatic turns by Hemsworth, Cohen, Buric and Shreli, Bader’s follow-up after his last similar genre effort cements his reputation in such B-movies that often have disregard for restraint, taste or elegance. You can literally feel the grime in every frame of the movie, and the wall-to-wall synthesizer score by composers Julian DeMarre and Heiko Maile further enhances the retro experience. It may be a bit of a superlative to say that it is killer, but ‘Killerman’ definitely cuts deep, both literally and metaphorically.
(Pulpy and propulsive, this throwback to the sort of raw, gritty and violent crime dramas from the '70s and '80s offers solid vicarious pleasures for genre fans)
Review by Gabriel Chong