8 out of 10
Release Date: 5th February 2010
Director: Gerard Johnson (Hyena)
Cast: Peter Ferdinando, George Russo, Francis Pope, Lorenzo Camporese, Ian Groomfield, Vicky Murdock, Mark Mooney, Ian Kilgannon, Neil Large with Ricky Grover and Neil Maskell
Writer: Gerard Johnson
To be proofread: Imagine if you will a Mike Leigh film about a weird serial killer and you’ll be close to realising Gerard Johnson’s Tony. So at odds with reality yet as banal and comically mundane as any of Mike Leigh’s grotesques Peter Ferdinando (as the titular Tony) presents us with one of the most watchable weirdos in UK cinema. A video nasty obsessed, Razzle reading, drug dabbling loner Tony seems to enjoy his peculiar hobby of casually killing any lone males that cross his path. Set in a rundown Dalston in North London, it presents London as a place were killers like Tony could escape easily detection purely because they are so secluded from your average British citizen.
Tony wins because of it’s towering comic yet weirdly warm portrayal by Peter Ferdinando (A FIELD IN ENGLAND). He’s an actor on the rise, but this film seems to be the genesis of his upward trajectory having been a featured extra for decades in famous TV shows. Most recently he impressed in Starred Up. He is ably supported by a procession of unusual actors that inevitably end up playing his unwitting victims. So casually funny is the script and Ferdinando’s off-kilter reading of the character that I was dying to see what would happen next, how he would get found out and where the whole film would lead. Fans of closed story arcs may be pissed off at the very open ending but I think it’s a perfect non-ending for one of UK cinema’s most memorable serial killers. In a film world where serial killers have often lead privileged lives and have a smart line for everything, it’s a true pleasure to come across a character so comically blank. I was never sure if Tony was cleverer than he was letting on or he really was that stupid. Johnson has created a great little film with bags of atmosphere, you can almost smell Tony’s flat! Tony’s unusual hang ups amuse as he perplexes his acquaintances with his knowledge of forgotten films (that he watches on Video – still!) (Hider In The House starring Gary Busey anyone? – A good film if I remember correctly), his obsession of being included in conversations or group drug taking is fun to watch too.
Acting support comes from a range of familiar and unknown faces led by George Russo (TOP DOG) and Francis Pope’s (TURNOUT) clucking smack heads and Neil Maskell’s (KILL LIST) shitty Job Centre employee. The best of the support comes from an unknown actor playing the manager (MARK MOONEY) of a tanning salon where Tony is sent for a job. Their exchange is a masterclass in comedy understatement.
Director Gerard Johnson coaxed his formerly famous brother Mat from 80s band The The to provide an excellent soundtrack. Piano driven, it’s like a warmer version of the Halloween theme tune. I was whistling it for days after seeing it.
8 out of 10 – Tony is one of the most enjoyable Britpics I’ve seen for ages. It’s certainly the funniest. An undiscovered cult classic for future generations to rediscover. It’s a shame that this has slipped through the cracks. I thoroughly recommend it to fans of Mike Leigh and Les Blair, along with fans of oddities like Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer. A work of quiet genius.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Peter Ferdinando: Knights of the Roundtable – King Arthur, Hyena, Starred Up, A Field In England, Turnout, Snow White and The Huntsman
- George Russo: Bonded By Blood 2, Top Dog, I Am Soldier, Green Street 3, Turnout, Zebra Crossing
- Francis Pope: Turnout
- Ian Groomfield: 12 In a Box
- Neil Large: The Hooligan Factory, White Collar Hooligan 2, Ill Manors, Turnout
- Ricky Grover: SuperBob, Eastenders (TV), Big Fat Gypsy Gangster, Huge, Dead Cert, Love Honour & Obey
- Neil Maskell: High-Rise, Humans (TV), Hyena, Open Windows, Evil Never Dies, The Rise, Dates (TV), Utopia (TV), All Things To All Men, Pusher (2012), St. George’s Day, The ABCs of Death, Piggy, Wild Bill (2012), Kill List, Turnout, Ghosted, Bonded By Blood, How To Stop Being a Loser, The Shouting Men, Jack Falls, Paintball, Doghouse, Rise Of The Footsoldier, It’s All Gone Pete Tong, The Football Factory, Nil By Mouth