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ROME 2018

Review: Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)

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- Tom Edmunds makes his feature debut with a hilarious dark comedy about a young man who is unable to take his own life so hires a professional killer to do it for him

Review: Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)
Freya Mavor and Aneurin Barnard in Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)

A wave of dark humour enveloped the seventh day of Rome Film Fest with Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) [+see also:
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film profile
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, the brilliant debut feature film by the British director Tom Edmunds (former author of the appreciated short film Is This a Joke?) that made journalists laugh at its morning screening and audience members laugh in the evening. A black comedy about a young man who fails to take his own life so hires a professional killer to do it for him, the film deploys a top-rate British cast, paradoxical situations and exquisite jokes during its 86-minute run-time, in which nothing seems to be too over-the-top.

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William (the Welshman Aneurin Barnard, seen in Dunkirk [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) is a young writer, existentialist and depressive, who has failed to get his book published and thinks there’s no point to his life. We meet him in the very first scene, as he prepares to jump off a bridge, to put an end to his pain. But he is not alone on that bridge: soon a mysterious man approaches him asking why he has chosen this particular method to kill himself, if he can just stay put and look at him, he'll leave him his business card, in case he needs it. On the business card we read: "Leslie O'Neil - Assassin." It’s clear from the beginning that what we’re about to watch a very original film.

The young man has already attempted suicide seven times, but for a variety of (ridiculous) reasons he's never quite succeeded. He decides to resort to Leslie's services (an irresistible Tom Wilkinson, two Oscar nominations for In the Bedroom and Michael Clayton), a professional killer who only kills those who ask him to, practically a walking euthanasia clinic ("I’ll save you the trip to Switzerland," he tells William as he shows him a brochure listing all the ways in which he can be killed, with a price list. He’s also enrolled in the British Association of Assassins. The two enter into a contract: Leslie agrees to kill William within a week, no win no fee. Meanwhile, the young man changes his mind, but the contract can not be cancelled, and Leslie must absolutely complete his mission if he wants to keep his job ("killing people gives me a reason to live," he tells his boss Harvey –Christopher Eccleston – who would rather he retired).

Followed by a manhunt full of grotesque implications and mishaps, where the contrast between the hesitant young man (who in the meantime falls in love with the beautiful editor Ellie, played by the Scottish actress Freya Mavor, who also tends to self-harm) and the pragmatism of the veteran killer generate some very amusing situations, as well as the interactions between the mature Leslie and his wife Penny (the marvelous Marion Bailey) within the walls of their own home, where the assassin changes his face, puts down his gun and cuddles his parrots, showing a hilarious dichotomy between his personal and professional life. A comedy about suicide that celebrates life, but not in a predictable way, indeed: the epilogue is anything but comforting, thankfully. It would have been a shame to conclude such a film in a non-original way.

Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) is a Guild of Assassins and Rather Good Films production. Altitude Film Sales is handling international sales. The film is due to be released by Eagle Pictures in Italy on 22 November.

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