Leave it to the boys from Down Under to deliver a riveting, neo-noir thriller that keeps you on the psychological edge of your seat with more twists and turns than the region’s Nerang River and Great Dividing Range. Elevating his skills as a storyteller from the horrific world he created a few years back with “Sleeper” and working with a script by Michael J. Kospiah, with THE SUICIDE THEORY director Dru Brown delves into a world of palpable violence tinged psychological terror and self-exploration with great aplomb.
Hit man Steven Ray is having a hard time since the death of his wife Annie as a the result of a seemingly mindless and random hit-and-run accident. Once confident and focused in his work, Steven is now anything but, becoming careless and random with his own actions and job assignments. One dark night after a random hit on a store clerk who merely made a comment to him earlier in the evening, Steven is caught off guard when a body drops from the sky almost into his lap.
The jumper, Percival, survives the fall from above, a fall he intended as his latest suicide attempt. Sadly, after the death of his partner Christopher, Percival has made multiple attempts to take his own life, failing miserably each time. After all of his failed attempts, Percival has a theory - THE SUICIDE THEORY; he is cursed and unable to commit suicide. He needs help to do it. Thus, for him, landing in Steven Ray’s life is almost serendipitous.
Two lost lonely souls, Percival and Steven Ray find they have much more in common beyond their personal losses and heartache. Percival wants to die. Steven Ray kills. Percival is willing to pay almost any amount of money if it means insuring his death and who better to help him in his quest that a hit man. As such, Percival quickly hires Steven Ray to “assist” him in his suicide. The catch, however, is that Steven Ray has to kill Percival at a moment when Percival doesn’t want to die and doesn’t see it coming. Easier said than done, especially as the two develop a close, yet dysfunctional, bond of friendship.
But in cruel twist of Fate, as life unravels and secrets revealed, the past, present and future all converge, tacitly positing to both men the bigger question - what are you really afraid of - leading to unexpected shocks and surprises for all concerned.
Steve Mouzakis gives Steven Ray a confident yet casual facade while allowing us to see it fracture and fall, disclosing a touching sadness and humanity within the man. Despite Steven Ray’s occupation and his current deal with Percival, Mouzakis has an air that makes the character acceptable, resonating on an emotional level with all.
A perfect compliment and counter to Mouzakis is Leon Cain’s Percival. With chubby cheeked boyishness, Cain has a naivete that vacillates with an almost calculating simplicity of innocence. Soft-spoken, Cain’s eyes have a softness and tenderness that aches.
Watching the friendship evolve in THE SUICIDE THEORY between Steven Ray and Percival is a character study in relationships as each actor delivers a tentativeness that is palpable yet welcoming, feeding off one another in emotion and performance. A testament to the well crafted characters and story by screenwriter Kospiah, under Dru Brown’s direction, THE SUICIDE THEORY finds a balance between the violent aspects of Steven Ray’s profession and the emotional baggage and tragedy at the heart of the two principals. Kospiah creates twists and turns of fated events that keep you on your toes as the story unfolds while giving Brown and cinematographer Dan Macarthur ample opportunity to ratchet up the visuals, playing with more of the tools in the toolbox than a straight drama would afford. But it is the complexity of the individual characters within their own minds and hearts that truly fascinates and intrigues.
Fueling the story further are some creative visuals by Macarthur who judiciously employs dutched camera angles, slo-motion and dissolves to the greatest emotional effect. Beautiful visual contrast comes through the development of the relationship between Steven Ray and Percival with visuals taking on a tone of “peeling the onion” mirroring the characters and clarity of thought. Although I would have preferred a slicker glossier visual polish, the decision by Brown and Macarthur to add a “less is more” look adds to the grittiness of Steven Ray’s profession and the suicide/killing thematic. However, the bright, cool light of the final scenes are hopeful and to a point serene and calming after the heavier darkness the bulk of the drama provides. Effective is Ahmad Halimi’s editing which keeps pacing taut, never losing tempo.
Thought-provoking, absorbing and telling. THE SUICIDE THEORY is not to be missed.
Directed by Dru Brown
Written by Michael J. Kospiah
Cast: Steve Mouzakis and Leon Cain