A nearly flawless look into violence and madness.
Killers is a rare gem of a film. The Indonesian/Japanese crime drama delves deep into our worship of violence and does so without pulling a punch. Be warned, minor spoilers in this review.
The film follows a wealthy Japanese serial killer Nomura (played by Kazuki Kitamura) and Indonesian journalist Bayu (played by Oka Antara) who do not have any relation to one another. Bayu watches a video of Nomura murdering a young woman and becomes somewhat obsessed with the idea of violence.
Bayu tries to uncover dirt on a corrupt politician, Dharma—an effort which costs him his family and his career, as he is obsessed with bringing the man down. After a brutal mugging where Bayu must kill in self defense, he has “awoken” and now pursues Dharma as a vigilante.
Nomura does not have the righteousness of Bayu in his actions. He kills because he enjoys it. There is no moralizing from him. Killing makes him “feel better.” Yet, he willingly communicates with Bayu to take the new killer under his wing.
While the film operates on one level as two killers pursuing their own goals and an eventual deadly climax, there is another level at work. Nomura kills women. There is no rhyme or reason other than a likely sexual thrill from his actions. Bayu kills for justice. The film goes out of its way to show that his killings are the right thing to do. An early example is a corrupt politician also happens to be a pedophile—so they must deserve to die. By contrasting the two men directly, the films asks; what is the difference? Why do we celebrate violence in some areas, but not others? Bayu is not much different than many superheroes (such as the Punisher), but when compared to a serial killer, the differences evaporate. The film will leave you feeling somewhat cold due to this question. How cozy are we to violence, and is this something that we should be concerned about?
Aside from a thoughtful storyline, the acting and directing is fantastic. The film is long (and some have said they thought it slowed down too much in the middle). For me, though, it was a captivating meditation the whole way through. A brutal and gory movie with a brain—something we don’t always see. The film is absolutely worth watching. 10/10