Film review: Tony

Title: Tony

Tony. Directed by Gerard Johnson, 2009.

Tony. Psycho killer qu’est que c’est…

Released: 2009

Director: Gerard Johnson

Starring: Peter Ferdinando, Ricky Grover, Kerryann White

Tony is a low-budget horror made and set in London. Premiered last May at the Edinburgh Film Festival, the eponymous anti-hero is a serial killer who epitomises all our notions of the generic nerdy weirdo. That sounds about as entertaining as blindfold bird watching, but Tony is a wee gem of a flick. The phrase black humour must have been coined for Johnson’s feature directorial debut, which conflates scenes of horrendous violence with sad and pathetic urban loneliness. Ok, so it’s not a barrel of laughs, but it is hugely subversive, original and creepy, and certainly meant as dark, dark comedy. Shot as a slice of life, we follow Tony through his miserable existence while he wanders the flats, befriends drug-addled blokes on his estate, picks up prostitutes, watches bad 80’s action films on VHS, and, oh yeah, kills people, chops them up and dumps their limbs in the Thames.

All the time, we watch. We watch knowing it’s the kind of stuff which goes on behind closed doors, but somehow now we’re allowed into this apathetic world. We watch as he passes the peripheries of insanity. We watch as our sentiment for this loner shifts from slight pity to utterly revulsion and disgust. We watch as he wakes up in bed next to a corpse and offers him a cup of tea. Then we laugh. Nothing else really happens in Tony. And nothing happens in his life, no friends, no work (he’s been on the scratch for 20 years), no fun. And so his switch gets flicked from chronic boredom to manic pathology from moment to moment. Retribution isn’t even waiting in the end. Something essential to creating this tone and resonance within the film is the original score by The The. It shifts the mood in scenes of unmitigated banality, watching Tony as he walks his daily route in simple docu-esque shots, to one of menace as he exorcises his demons through the streets of London.

There is also Peter Ferdinando, who is absolutely stunning in the lead; more than just his bad ‘tasche, or dodgy anorak and glasses, he plays the role chillingly, somehow real and exaggerated all at once. Tony is a surprisingly subtle and stylish film. It’s a surprisingly funny and gorey film. A surprisingly brilliant film.

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