As soon as the 1970s exploitation-style title credits roll over the film’s eponymous anti-hero walking through a grimy-looking Hackney – taking in Dalston market, the pirate DVD sellers lurking around Tesco and vast brutalist council estates – you know this ain’t going to be an easy ride.
Meet Tony – wiping his bum in the opening shots, yuk! – an unemployable loner, sporting a terrible moustache and a very dodgy haircut, who spends his waking hours watching action films and wandering the streets of my part of London.
And pity anyone who befriends this slug of a man because Tony has a secret – he’s a serial killer. But he’s no ordinary bloodthirsty butchering psycho. No, our Tony’s quite the gentle soul really, who only targets deadbeats; a couple of smack-heads who only want his money to buy drugs; an unsavoury Essex bloke who just wants a place to kip; and even the television licence man – well, no loss there.
Because his victims are so unlikeable, Tony’s murderous spree doesn’t seem that bad. In fact, he’s more like a refuse collector of the outcast and the dispossessed, than a senseless killer. But that doesn’t mean he’s likeable. In fact, he’s very creepy and downright seedy (he keeps a box of tissues and some Vaseline to hand, double yuk).
But Tony is very, very funny. From sleeping with a decaying corpse: ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ to trying to buy the services of a prostitute: ‘How much for a cuddle?”, Tony has more in common with Leonard Rossiter‘s Rigsby than the real-life serial killer Dennis Nilsen that his character resembles. And this is down to Peter Ferdinando‘s eerily-brilliant portrayal of the ‘nonce-faced’ loner.
A smart, sharp-witted, black comedy that’s unsettling but never ever depressing, Tony is a wicked, polished debut from Gerard Johnson, which benefits hugely from the dark, funny script, and a unsettling (if under-used) score by The The‘s Matt Johnson.
Johnson also has a great eye for detail (he gets Tony to wrap chunks of flesh in newspaper carrying an article about Francis Bacon paintings; and even replicates the famous murder scene from Hitchcock’s Frenzy), while the gritty, mis-en-scène photography works perfectly despite the very low budget.
All-in-all, Tony is a humour, twisted journey into perversity and murder that works better than most of today’s genre films and really stands out in a league of its own. Class stuff!
Released 5 February (Also showing on Sky Box Office & FilmFlex)