It’s such a shame that Small Town Killers has been so unanimously hated among Danish critics. Described as ‘simply not funny’ and ‘something of a mess’, the film has had very little success since it premiered in Denmark back in January. For a film with a talented cast (Nicolas Bro, Søren Malling and Ulrich Thomsen), as well as a rather well-known director, Ole Bornedal (1864), perhaps these factors warranted too much analysis, or maybe the film was just taken too seriously.
What went wrong, then? In a film that could be described as Men and Chicken meets In Order of Disappearance, Small Town Killers follows two tradesmen, Ib (Bro) and Edward (Thomsen), who are tired of their lifeless marriages and dream of living the good life with a stash of money they’ve earned and hidden. After a huge fight with their wives, the two men get drunk and hire a Russian contract killer to do a hit on their spouses. But they have badly underestimated their wives, and this becomes the start of an absurd journey where Ib and Edward, to their own horror, end at the top of a hit list.
Small Town Killers is a film full of cliches: the Russian hitman is always drunk of vodka, and the two men are caricatures of typical sexually frustrated husbands. When the women hire their own killer, they pick a British woman named ‘Mrs Nippleworthy’ (one of the films many cringe-worthy moments). But films can be absurd, cliche, offensive, and downright strange. Sure, Small Town Killers won’t be winning any awards at film festivals, but it will certainly draw in audiences from varying countries. I wasn’t bored during the film, and it gave me as many laughs as it did uncomfortable moments.
That said, this is a poorly made film. It seems that Bornedal lost his vision; on paper, the film has all the markings of a decent black comedy, but on the screen the film is a jumbled mess of film genres and cliches, completely losing the story in translation. It simply tries to appeal to too many different audiences. Edward is a sullen, petty and spiteful man, with virtually no redeeming features and Ulrich Thomsen looks uncomfortable in the role (it did come out a year after the acclaimed The Commune), and the sexually frustrated Ib is dull and cliched, though Nicolas Bro is delightful to watch and his last dance scene (yes, there’s a dance scene) breathes life into the film.
Overall, Small Town Killers is a mess. But it’s a funny mess, full of dark Nordic humour that can’t be taken seriously. It’s fun, and sometimes it’s okay to like fun, stupid movies. I really hope this film gets international screenings as it feels like it’ll do better abroad. Would you want to see this film?