SXSW Film Review: 68 Kill
Amorality road-trip tale heists Midnighter Audience Award
By Richard Whittaker,
4:15PM, Sat. Mar. 18, 2017
Ever had a friend in a relationship that's clearly such bad news that you have to say something, but it does no good? In crime caper 68 Kill, Chip's friends can warn him off Liza as much as they like, but it takes a body count for him to reconsider their relationship priorities.
The fact that Liza (AnnaLynne McCord, Nip/Tuck) believes rough sex should leave Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler, Criminal Minds) with facial bruising and neck contusions should be bad enough. When she plans to drag them both into ripping off one of her johns, that should really be a Liz Lemon-level deal breaker.
Director Trent Haaga walked away with the SXSW 2017 Best Midnighter Audience Award for his nasty modern noir, which blends the entertaining mean-spiritedness of his script for SXSW 2013 morality tale/crime comedy Cheap Thrills with the occasional nihilistic blast of his transgressive zombie horror Deadgirl.
However, the real signpost reads "After Hours, Dead Ahead," as affably idiotic and perilously romantic Chip blunders deeper into other people's very bad deeds. Gubler, wide-eyed and hapless, twitches into Chip as a faded denim-clad, trailer-living Griffin Dunne. He's just smart enough to know that what he's doing is really dumb, and just ridiculous enough to be charming when he's accidentally pointing a gun at a small kid.
In pursuit of scummy laughs, Haaga successfully grasps for the low-life brass ring. Even taking into account a spree of murders and a lot of head injuries, it's lighter in tone than Cheap Thrills, and heavier on the twilight full of crazies, weirdos, late night diversions, and interruptions. He also keeps the crazy dysfunction of Chip and Liza front and center, as they wade through a neon-slippery hell and their own inability to communicate. He just wants a relationship, she wants to murder everyone in their path, and in the twisted logic of Haaga's script (adapted from Bryan Smith's novel of the same name), it's hard to argue that the cadre of deliciously despicable low-lives that block their path don't deserve a double tap to the skull.
Sleazy, skeezy, and delightfully breezy, what 68 Kill lacks in earnest observation and character depth, it makes up for in lurid insanity. Plus, Gubler must win the award for the year's best shrill squeak whenever he's in peril.