The Suicide Theory Dir. Dru Brown

[Freestyle Releasing; 2015]

Styles: thriller, black comedy
Others: Sleeper, Side Effects

Coincidence, fate (or the lack thereof), and mysterious cosmic connections flowing under the accidents of our everyday experience are central to this film, a quirky and darkly comedic turn from relatively unknown Aussie director Dru Brown. Brown’s first widely released feature finds the director grappling with some pretty heady and perennially confounding themes, ones that unfortunately elude him and his crew. A disjointed and unevenly toned film, The Suicide Theory flirts with straight-up nihilism, but ends up backing off just enough to leave us with an unconvincing morality play about consequence and the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate things.

Steven (Steve Mouzakis), a hitman reeling from the tragic loss of his fiancée and their unborn daughter, takes an unusual job: he’s paid a handsome sum up front by a man desperate to end his own life. The catch is that he needs to do it while his victim is least expecting it. After reacting the way you’d probably expect a hitman to react after being given a handbag full of money, Steven finds later that his attempted murder/service rendered hasn’t had the desired effect at all, and his target, though severely wounded, is still very much alive. Percival (Leon Cain), having been shot several times, wakes up in a hospital with an unmistakable look of sheer disappointment on his face, obviously confused as to why he hasn’t been able to shuffle off this mortal coil. A leitmotif is then set up of doctors telling him he’s lucky to be alive, and every possible opportunity to exploit it is taken throughout the rest of the movie.

Steven is a deflated and closed-off hitman, but he finds himself opening up to Percy, as the essentially dead man proves an unparalleled sounding board and confessional for the deeply troubled professional murderer. Heading out to a nightclub to talk about what might have gone wrong in the attempt on Percy’s life, the two get to know each other, and it’s almost a meet cute sort of thing until you realize that Steven has no desire whatsoever to get in there with a dude. Here, the film opens for itself an interesting and sadly uncapitalized opportunity to explore human interactions freed from the nagging inevitability of death, but it instead toys around with probable explanations as to why Percy seems to only be able to kill himself if he’s authentically happy at the time of his own demise. Why this is the case is central to making the film work, but it’s the one aspect of Percy’s story that is the least explored.

Percy, which we might too quickly find out, is distraught after the murder of his boyfriend, an event that’s left him completely hopeless and unable to cope with the vagaries of living day to day alone and sorrowful, hence the intense desire to end it all. Aside from a tacked-on and altogether forced side quest regarding a homophobic bartender and his group of violent super cis friends, the film exponentially loses momentum as it hobbles its way to an unnecessarily twist-filled denouement.

The Suicide Theory is a fun but ultimately predictable film, relying too much on its obvious plot twists to power its narrative. The best of this kind of quirky, morally ambiguous, twisty-turny film is the one that lays its cards on the table up front and relies solely on the strength of its characters and understanding of mise-en-scène to imbue them with intrigue. Those who rest on a convoluted, overly complex plot to draw the viewer in almost doom themselves to unsatisfying repeat viewings, and all of them seem happy to welcome this film into their ranks.

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