1 out of 5
Directed by: Ole Bornedal
While I understand that terms like ‘satire’ can have a wide range of definitions, let’s just go with the first one that comes up in a search: a work in which human foolishness or vice is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
From that, setting aside one’s opinion on the effectiveness of the satire, it would seem to suggest that it’s general a case of reacting to something, and not with it. So if it’s applied with some humorous intent, we’d likely be laughing at the foibles of the character at the center of the satire, and not laughing alongside them, as they act like reprehensible, obnoxious pieces of shit.
So, note to Ole Bornedal: your “dark comedy” Small Town Killers, which I think is hoping to take a winky stab at love and marriage, while also poking the modern day bear of politically correctness regarding gender and race and whatnot, fails at being a satire of any of that. There’s admittedly credit due regarding what I would consider as solid direction of the film’s actors, who commit to their unsavory roles, and the cinematography makes good use of the rain-soaked and mud-caked Danish setting for a surprisingly lush, easy on the eyes look, but man was this a dunderheaded flick.
Ib and Edward are unhappily married, sex-starved men. Their wives, Gritt and Ingrid, are equally unhappy and unsatisfied in their own ways. Small Town Killers plays fair-ish by making both husbands and wives equally scummy – the men are walking boners; the women are harpies – but as we spend most of our time with Ib and Edward, and as none of their stereotypical “women are horrible” bickerings are actually challenged by the movie, and especially given that the setup of their jokes makes it clear we’re supposed to be finding them hilarious, the movie is rather unfortunately one-sided in the men versus women debate, and goddamn wives grumble grumble, and men are fueled by sex!, and other such outdated gems. And so one drunken night, they hire a hitman to off their significant others.
They realize that’s a bit extreme when sobered up, but the plan is already in motion, leading to an hour or so worth of hopefully humorous escalations of that situation, including when their wives find out about the plot.
There’s a good idea here, and the concept would be ripe for filling it up with some satire. But when we start rolling out the racist “jokes” and mocking a so-called “spastic” character – with the lamest fucking possible ‘realization’ soon after about why they’re making fun of him – writer / director Ole Bornedal makes it abundantly clear that he’s of the league of satirists who think that punching below the belt is how you tell your audience to loosen up.