Monday, September 5, 2011

DVD Review: TONY (2009)

TONY (2009)

Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Video: 16:9 Widescreen
Audiio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Director: Gerard Johnson
Cast: Peter Ferdinando, Ricky Grover, George Russo, Frances Pope
Tagline: It's Aways the Quiet Ones

This is a film that will have you second guessing that weird nut on the bus that sits next you that mumbles to himself a bit and occasionally yelps or elicits some other random verbal outburst or perhaps the strange guy that frequents your magazine shop every so often, till now you've suspected they were a bit "off" but mostly harmless otherwise. We have one where I work we call "Fake Business Man", a dapper dressed fellow who carries with him a briefcase at all times, we often wonder what's inside, some say a knife others claim to have seen a lone sleeve of saltines, but it definitely has garnered a legend of it's own not dissimilar to the suite case from PULP FICTION. One day he came in bought a bottle of Peligrino water and crawled on his hands and knees from the register to the end of the counter where he arose stating "I don't think they saw me this time" and then off he went, I doubt he's a serial killer or a threat but after seeing this film I may be a bit more guarded next visit just to play it safe.

Gerard Johnson's feature film debut TONY (2010) follows the exploits of the titular Londoner played by actor Peter Ferdinand.  He's stricken with a severe case of awkwardness, he's gaunt, wears thick glasses, has a bad haircut and a truly awful mustache. His daily routine consists of not much more than feeding his appetite for 80's action films on VHS over a bowl of cereal and beating off to porn on the shitter, sounds like a pretty typical blogger or podcaster if you ask me, trust me, I know. His daily ventures out into the surrounding working class neighborhood is frought with awkward interactions with addicts, prostitutes and drug peddlers. Most pay him no heed but occasionally one ends up back at his place for whatever reason and more often than not they end up cut into tiny pieces, wrapped in newspaper and placed in a blue plastic grocery bags and dropped in the Thames during a nice gingerly stroll.

TONY is a quietly intense portrait of a modern day serial killer, a deeply disturbed individual who appears troubled but is not someone you'd peg as a killer on sight. Tony doesn't set out to kill but instead is looking for that elusive human connection but he's so introverted that he's virtually incapable of interacting with others on any kind of meaningful level and as a result he is easily dismissed and his attempts to make friends just end badly, his particular way of dealing with it just happens to be to simply kill them. As we view Tony's daily routines i feels almost documentary style, it's voyeuristic and creepy, not much happens but when it does it's hair raising. Despite being a psychotic killer he's not a unsympathetic character, unlike nearly all his victims, but he's just so creepy that even low-rent prostitutes shun him, he's the guy in the neighborhood that everyone knows as the weirdo, not even the guy selling bootleg DVD's is willing to carry on a conversation with him. He resorts to consorting with drug addicts whom he scores smack with and takes back to his place, suffocating one with a plastic bag while he's strung out and imprisoning the other and then releasing him, apparently because he was nicer while the other was an asshole. A night out at the gay bar ends with him waking up next to a corpse whom he offers tea to while tucking it all nice and comfy into the bed, perhaps there's some necrophilia implied but it's not explicit. All this goes on under the noses of the neighborhood who seems not to suspect shenanigans despite a constant funky smell emanating from his flat until a young boy goes missing and the boy's father fingers the neighborhood nut as a suspect which puts the police at his front doorstep.

Don't come into the film expecting a gore fest or even a blood bath, while there's a foot in the sink and some entrails being packed into bags and what not this is more a chilling study of a deranged nutcase than a blood n' guts splatterfest. This is worse, this is the weirdo next door to you. 

Despite being a low-budget production the film looks great and was shot on film, not digital, and you can tell. Its gloomy with long languid camera shots, it's fascinating stuff and is anchored by Peter Ferdinand's stunning lead performance, and the film's eerie atmosphere is further complimented by a melancholy score from THE THE.

DVD: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 surround sound mixes with optional English subtitles as well as a audio description audio track for the vision impaired. Special features include an informative audio commentary from director Gerard Johnson, producer Dan McCullock and actor Peter Ferindando. There are also two short films from the director; MUG (2004) follows the daily routine of a street mugger and it's a depressing bit of film and the short film that preceded the feature film TONY (2005) also starring Ferdinando in the lead role and featuring a few scenes that are fleshed out in the feature length production.

Special Features:

- Feature Commentary from Gerard Johnson, Peter Ferdinando, Dan McCulloch
- TONY (2005) Short Film (14:07) 16:9
- MUG (2004) Short Film (10:45) 4:3 Letterboxed

Verdict: A film that recalls some of the cinema's finest serial killer character studies like HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and MANIAC. I give this a high recommend, it's a skin crawling film that will stay with you for some time afterwards, so watch out for the weirdos and pick this one up ASAP.