A couple of hitmen, one of whom, Jay, hasn’t worked for eight months after a previous job went bad in some unspecified way, agree to kill a number of people on a list but things aren’t quite what they seem and events are going to get a bit hairy…
I don’t watch too many modern horrors – I don’t like “slasher” films & much prefer psychological thrillers – but the film I’d meant to see tonight, ‘The Skin I Live In‘, was shunted to a ridiculous hour that I couldn’t attend after only two days’ showings (I’m going to try and catch it on another town tomorrow) and this was the most interesting offer available.
It has certainly had good reviews, I think deservedly for the most part, though I have just a couple of reservations about the end of the movie; luckily I had been warned (without spoilers) of some of these beforehand Had I not, I think the disappointment might have spoiled what had been, up to then, a really terrific film.
The reservations, then: there is a ‘surprise’ ending that isn’t. Perhaps, if we’re feeling generous, we can write this off as deliberately created for “a feeling of impending doom”‘ since that has been building throughout the film but I’m not entirely convinced this was what had been intended. My other main reservation is that the end feels rushed. For most of the movie, the tension has been slowly built up through realistic situations, setting and performance but the filmmakers seem to have felt the need to impose a ‘big’ finish, at odds with the rest of the film. I know that the end needs a dramatic climax but this felt like it was cashing in a little cheaply (the end is also a bit derivative but not excessively so, to my knowledge anyway).
The good stuff. As above, realistic settings. It was odd & gratifying to see recognisably normal Yorkshire in a film like this; I haven’t felt so familiar with a film setting since ‘Four Lions‘. This gave the realistic background for the actors to make the naturalistic script really work and convince me of the reality of their situation. Jay’s home is believable and normal, despite his job (of which his wife is aware and seemingly approving) and the professionalism and mundanity of the ‘work’ is nicely portrayed. The script (some of which was ad libbed), acting and directing keep things interesting, even as we pick up the plot in hints and inferences.
I don’t want to suggest that the end ruins the film – it doesn’t – but it fails to live up to the promise of the beginning. A carefully crafted reality with a slightly disconcerting weirdness just around the edges could surely have had an ending more in keeping with its earlier tone – something low-key, like ‘Don’t Look Now‘, perhaps. I felt much the same about Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon‘ where a tremendous atmosphere of paranoia becomes an entertaining and clever, but much less interesting, high concept sci-fi parable. Having spent so much care making something different and convincing, it seems a shame to revert to more ordinary tropes at the end.