Tony (2009)

NOVEMBER 16, 2010


Barely qualifying as a film in both running time (72 minutes, including the very slow end credits) and plot (there is none), I would still recommend Tony to fans of serial killer films, as it’s very abnormal in the genre; the closest thing I could think to compare it to would be Henry, but it also reminded me a bit of Colin, in that the entire movie is told from the focus of someone we shouldn’t be rooting for, but can’t help but sympathize with anyway.

Also like Colin, it’s set in London! But in places I recognize this time – Tony even walks past the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square that I was situated in for the better part of 5 glorious days last August. But only briefly – most of the film takes place in areas I never saw while I was there; areas that aren’t particularly flattering or picturesque. Tony’s apartment, for example, is one of what seems to be several hundred in a building called Robin Hood Gardens (I think?), which to me just seems like a depressing place to live. But it just confirms that the city is a sorely underused locale for horror films – skilled DPs could be having a field day with the architecture and largely disparate areas; it’s almost hard to believe these places could all be in one small geographical area.

And it’s a good thing that it’s not an overused area, because it seems half the movie is just Tony walking around. This movie would be unbearable if set in say, downtown Los Angeles, or the Bronx – areas I’ve seen 596 million times in movies. Because at least when he goes walking around yet again, I can at least enjoy the scenery, but if I recognized the areas from other movies I’d just be bored, I think. We get it, he’s lonely and socially awkward!

Also helping is Peter Ferdinando’s performance as Tony. He has no real arc to speak of, but he’s fascinating to watch all the same, meekly making his way through several encounters with random annoying people (many of whom he kills) as he just tries to get through his day unperturbed. He clearly wants companionship (there’s a suggestion of necrophilia), but for the most part the guy just wants to be left in peace, watching his action movies on VHS. Speaking of which – kudos to the filmmakers for making him an action junkie instead of a horror fan; we don’t need any more “evidence” that watching horror movies makes us turn into psychotics. He even owns Firestorm! Oddly, one of the few films he mentions by name is Hider in the House, which is very much a horror thriller.

But back on point, I liked that he never seemingly went out of his way to kill someone. Instead, he just kills the folks that would disturb his life, such as the guy who threatens to take his TV away for not paying his licensing fee (this is a very foreign concept to me – I was amazed to discover that this actually happens in the UK). He goes out to clubs and such, but again it seems to be more to find someone to hang out and watch action movies with, not to kill. The best scene in the film finds him unknowingly drawing the attention of a homosexual guy in a club, who goes home with him. Tony just thinks the guy wants to hang out and maybe listen to one of his Queen tapes, and so when the guy makes a move on him... well, let’s just say it’s the rare occurrence in a serial killer movie where you fear for the safety of the killer.

Also he kind of reminded me of Gary Oldman, which is fine by me. More actors should be like Gary Oldman.

The DVD comes with a pair of short films, including the original short version of Tony. Oddly, one of the least effective scenes in the film, where Tony brings a pair of drug dealers home for some reason (the accents were a bit impenetrable to me here), pretty much makes up the bulk of the short film. If I had seen the short first, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the feature when it came around. Then Ferdinando, director Gerard Johnson, and producer Dan McCulloch provide a dry but worth-listening-to commentary track, explaining how they got away with some of the exterior filming shots, that the film was shot in sequence over 12 days, etc. The film is so short you might as well listen to it; combined it’s still shorter than any Harry Potter movie.

With some sort of plot to speak of (you can remove any section of the film and it wouldn’t have any affect, even on editing) this could have been a “Year’s Best” type entry, but it’s just a bit too barebones to elevate it to that level. But Ferdinando’s performance and the laid back, dryly comedic approach to the killer film are laudable, and thus it’s still definitely worth a look.

What say you?


  1. Almost like a 'Falling Down' for serial killers. You also coulda told me this was an early 90s production starring Oldman or even Geoffrey Rush and it'd cause me to do a doubletake.

  2. They aren't dealers, they are 2 annoying fools who he bumps into and they follow him home to smoke heroin in the least realistic manner ever.
    The whole film looks like a student film and bares no resemblance to what would happen over here really.
    Example - he goes to see the guy at the job centre and he hasn't had a job since forever.... in reality he would have been forced into many jobs over the years unless he was signed off as sick/disabled.
    Also the killing of the TV license man.... well over here we have the BBC which does not have commercial breaks, so thats 4 TV channels and about 10 radio stations: because of no adverts we are supposed to pay for the channels and most people do, however it is very easy not to if you don't ever let any collectors in. So in that sequence the man would have had to tell his superiors/family where he was going that day including Tony's flat, and when he doesn't turn up no one cares. In fact the whole film is about people just disappearing. Yes Dennis Nielsen got away with it for years,but that was with runaways not any men that he bumps into.

    Anyway its ok if those concepts are not thought about too much. However its absolute crap compared to Henry which is possibly my favourite film ever.... well at least within its genre.

    1. This guy is talking complete rubbish and has questionable taste in films, apart from liking "Henry".

    2. You're right about the job centre scene (hardly realistic now - Nielsen worked in dole office as I'm sure you know - the whole tale very inspired by real life) and the TV License man was far fetched, Ricky Grover a little too much but I stilled liked the film. Great direction and the guy playing Tony is perfect. The two scag heads were extremely believable too and the squalor off druggie London life was accurately shown. Nice seeing locations I knew like Ridley Rd market, Dalston, and even the Where House in Tottenham used, not to mention Soho and Picadilly Circus. What amazed me was the sudden ending just when you thought the police were on to him - as if they had run out of time or money.

  3. Great review. I loved Tony - found it engrossing, personal, realistic and also very funny in places. It's a great achievement. The last scene with the detective was chilling. It's a film which looks at London alienation, how people can exist like this...


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