New Releases: The Lady Killers (2017) - Reviewed

At a time when the current president of the United States is a sexist idiot and one of the biggest producers in Hollywood has been ousted as a result of numerous sexual harassment claims, a movie like The Lady Killers could not be more culturally relevant. 

Written and directed by Phil Leirness, the film tells the story of a group of friends who resurrect a game – a contest of romantic conquest - from their fraternity days, and the resulting consequences of their actions. At times, the film can be hard to watch, as it’s a painfully real reminder of the kind of mindset that seems to be dominating the country right now: Women are seen as objects who are put on this Earth for the sole purpose of providing pleasure to men. 

The second half of the movie, however, takes a surprisingly twisted turn, as members of the group are murdered, leaving the ringleader of the game, Peter Martel (Jamie Kaler), a homicide detective, to uncover just what exactly is going on. Among the group of manboys, I was particularly moved and horrified at different moments by Shaun Parker, who plays Michael Austin, the moral compass of the group who makes some very poor decisions as the game continues. Parker’s performance is so rich and complex that even after he commits an unforgiveable act, I still felt sorry for him, and was conflicted over my sympathy. 

On the other side of the spectrum is Burt Bulos as Stephen Consing, a character who is so unapologetic – at times bordering, if not crossing over into being a sociopath - that it’s hard to watch. And yet, Bulos completely inhabits the role, and clearly has fun doing it, making it hard to take your eyes off of him and exactly what he’s doing in every scene. While both characters represent – at least for me – opposite sides of what I’ll call the “douchebag spectrum,” no character is completely redeemed by the time the credits role, which allows The Lady Killers to maintain and eventually achieve its darkly comedic tone. 

Holy crap. Would you look at the size of that thing?!!

When I first saw the trailer for the film, I noted how there was a certain David Lynchian style to the dialogue and mood of the film from the few scenes that were shown. After watching The Lady Killers in its entirety, I stand by that original assessment. The dreamlike quality to certain scenes, as well as the humor, feel influenced by his work, sometimes even appearing to exist in the same world as Lynch’s most recent work, Twin Peaks: The Return. (It’s important to note that The Lady Killers wrapped production well before The Return even started.) 

Simply put – dark comedies either work or they don’t. While one could make the argument that any film lives or dies by the director’s hand, that statement is especially true of this genre. Leirness has a clear understanding and control of his material, and directs the actors in such a way that you understand what he’s doing, even if it’s sometimes hard to watch. The result is a successful examination of the unfortunate time in which we live, when new allegations of sexual assault are dominating almost every conversation, and men, by and large, seem as though they’ve been playing the game in The Lady Killers for their entire lives. 

Everybody respect the green notebook!

One scene, near the movie’s midpoint, I found particularly poignant. Michael, having committed a heinous act, tries to justify his actions to his therapist, John (played by Leirness), who has also participated in the game, by saying John is no better than him. John then tells Michael, “I’m worse! Feel better?” And it’s that kind of exchange that makes this film eerily resonant. In the real world, no one seems to understand that the point is not who perpetrated the more violent act, rather, it’s the fact that a crime was committed in the first place. And yet, a point system – much like the one in this movie – is awarded to those whose crimes are somehow seen as “not so bad” when compared to other, worse ones.   

Your ability to accept the many rewards and layers The Lady Killers has to offer will largely depend on your willingness to embrace its darkness. I enjoyed the movie, and yet I was totally disturbed by it, which is why it’s exactly the kind of film we need right now. 

Find out more on The Lady Killers at this link. 


-Matt Giles