One might suspect a film which opens with a discussion regarding a large container of super frozen cookie dough ice cream could be a comedy, even a deeply black one. While THE SUICIDE THEORY has moments of humor wildly ironic and grim, we are laughing in spite of what has transpired, not because it is purposefully comic. The film is not a comedy, but a profoundly intelligent and moving story about fate, destiny, karma – call it what you will – and draws a brilliant picture of the unseen energetic ripples we create flowing outward from our actions. Like the light we see today on earth that left its star millions of years ago, the waves from our own acts, somewhere down the path of our life and that of others’, will weave together to deliver perfect karmic justice. Or so screenwriter Michael J. Kospiah and director Dru Brown make us believe – and quite convincingly so.
Steven (Steve Mouzakis) is, self admittedly, a bad guy. He is a killer, albeit not a grisly dramatic psycho-killer. There is no seductively psychopathic Hannibal Lecter here, but rather a somewhat ordinary man whose work is killing. The aforementioned ice cream is being procured for his pregnant wife, a fact which, understandably, sends dread and fear through Steven. Flash forward 3 years to when he is contacted by a man, Percival (Leon Cain), who offers him a great deal of money to kill him. Steven gives voice to our own thought process; Why don’t you kill yourself? If you’re afraid to die and can’t do it yourself perhaps you don’t really want to die? Maybe you’re just insane? Maybe you’re setting me up…Any and all of those are real possibilities, however Percival has tried to kill himself. Numerous times in fact, and his disfigured face is a testament to the ferocity with which he has tried to accomplish that goal. He has plunged from roofs, shot himself – in the head no less, poisoned and drugged himself, each time only to awaken alive and well. It is not lost on the audience that Percival of the Round Table lore was one of the few knights of the to survive King Arthur’s death, a fable which serves as a clever and apt metaphor. He believes he is cursed and can only be killed when he is ‘happy’ and doesn’t want to die. Steven’s irritation and skepticism are understandable. It is here, where the story really begins, that we hope desperately the film does not devolve into a series of humorous million-ways-to-die chronicle.
Beyond not being farcical or slapstick, THE SUICIDE THEORY elegantly allows the men to develop a relationship with great meaning and, no pun intended, life altering importance. Director Brown could have all too easily allowed the story to be trite, ‘New Agey,’ and frankly, dumb. It is anything but. Mouzakis does a seriously impressive job with the role of Steven who is both sympathetic and menacing. He is regular guy – or, as regular a guy who is a killer can be. He handles his ‘business’ like a business, and that we can empathize with and even like him in other situations makes him a realistic and compelling character. We actually understand him without necessarily condoning his murderous tendencies. While Percival is suffering, a victim, he too has secrets and possesses a strength which prevents him from being more than merely a pitiful shell. The men bestow intangible gifts upon each other which grow as a byproduct of the bizarre nature of what brought them together, the real reason for which there is far more to than meets the eye. Despite the fact that we viewers come to understand the underlying story before our characters do, it in no way diminishes the thrill and captivating nature of the film. It holds your attention for every second of its taut and well used 98 minutes.
THE SUICIDE THEORY is exceedingly well acted by Mouzakis and Cain who are able to hold dramatic tension in the moments where the film’s somewhat spiritual overtone could reduce lesser actors to parody. The film communicates well through its art direction and use of color with Steven’s boss always being bathed in a suggestively Satanic red light. It is well-edited allowing us to know only the minimum of what we need to know to be held rapt but without feeling frustrated or confused. You don’t have to work as hard as you did in MEMENTO, but neither does the film stumble along in baby steps. This is Dru Brown’s second feature-length directorial effort and screenwriter Kospiah’s first. Together they have crafted a surprisingly impactful and memorable film, one which forces you to look back upon your own actions and wonder if you have yet felt the full impact of the choices you, or others, made. One thing’s for sure, you will never again feel the same way when you hear the phrase, ‘you’re lucky to be alive…’(4 / 5)
Director: Dru Brown
Cast: Steve Mouzakis, Leon Cain, Joss McWilliam, Matthew Scully, Todd Levi, Zoe de Plevitz
Running Time: 98 Minutes
The Suicide Theory Movie Review