Crash Analysis: THE KILLING GENE (UK, 2007)

If you liked SEVEN…

A couple of nice turns for the serial killer subgenre…

Though more of a crime/thriller, there’s enough gore and disturbing elements to shove posterthis movie into the horror vein, and it is labeled as such. I hadn’t heard of THE KILLING GENE until I began looking at more work from the amazing Melissa George (30 DAYS OF NIGHT, TRIANGLE). And as soon as I realized the equally fabulous Stellan Skarsgard (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO series, INSOMNIA) also played the lead, it was my first no-brainer in a long damn time.

THE KILLING GENE script comes from the pen of Clive Bradley, best known for his television work, especially with “Waking the Dead,” and he delivers a gritty, noir tale that’s free and wide open. Director Tom Shankland (THE CHILDREN, and the forthcoming DARK CORNERS) brings the film to light, though there may be less than a handful of minutes where the sun almost shines. Regardless, Shankland lets his actors dive head first into their characters, and few are likable. All seem dirty, tainted by the grime of the eternally dark streets that they roam. In less than ten minutes of viewing, I wanted to take a shower and rub my skin off with pumice stone.

In this ugly tale of torture and murder, Eddie Argo (Skarsgard) and Helen Westcott (George) are on the trail of a serial killer with one twisted agenda of revenge. And as for revenge tales, this is one of the most interesting and disturbing premises I’ve seen in a long, damn time. But never fear, it’s not a slow and tedious police procedural, and we don’t have to worry about meddling officials or slow courtroom banter. The cast is small, the city vast, and the visceral mayhem is up close and personal.

Sure, the acting’s solid, and Morton Soborg’s (VALHALLA RISING, THE GIFT) cinematography truly captures the graininess of the nasty and unremorseful streets, but through all the tumult and suspense, there are problems. As with most movies of this ilk, our gruff cops seem to keep a blind eye to all things legal. As far as they’re concerned, they’re princes of the city, allowed to roam every avenue, and they can equally ignore “the book” to get shit done for the greater good. At times, things happened in the film that throws police procedure way out the window. I’m sorry, but if gang members start whipping out guns right and left, cops would be hauling their asses in jail, not turn away and leave them to their own devices. Furthermore, the most successful gangs keep things on the down low as much as possible, and wouldn’t risk such stupid and blatant exposure. There’s just too much of the over-the-top “movie reality” versus “reality” that cheapens the movie. Additionally, though a UK production, the city is supposedly New York. Though modern in scope, it seems to capture the rough and tumble streets of the eighties and early nineties more than anything else. It’s hard to buy into how sick the streets are in the narrative considering that the bulk of New York seems to be an offshoot of Disneyland nowadays.

As for those little twists and turns, I’d love to mention them, but that would sink the film for you. Suffice to say, both turns were well executed and long over due in the genre. Though they may not surprise ever viewer, they both serve as a relief from the hackneyed formula.

THE KILLING GENE would make a great double bill with SEVEN. Even though the latter does have its farfetched moments, it still has the edge over Shankland’s modern noir. Even so, if you’re looking for a crime thriller that’s hard hitting without an apology, this is the one you need to check out.

Let me know what you think…

3.5 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Bloody Disgusting)

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