Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.
Amid the Civil War in 17th-century England, a group of deserters flee from battle through an overgrown field. Captured by an alchemist, the men are forced to help him search to find a hidden treasure that he believes is buried in the field.
Never trust a caravanner! A brutal, hilarious British triumph.
Sightseers is emphatically not for your Aunt Nelly. Actually, it isn't
suitable for my dad, most of the run-of-the-mill Saturday night
cinema-goers, Daily Mail readers or the die-hard caravan owners who
embark on such road trips. To be honest, Sightseers isn't right for
many people at all; it's what you might call a niche film. It's going
to satisfy a minority audience, but those few who do relish the thought
of another dark, very dark, British comedy are going to absolutely
delight in it.
Falling somewhere between Dexter and The League of Gentlemen (and if
you don't know it, try Big Woman out for size a Desert Island Disc if
I'm ever invited on), Sightseers is a road movie about an odd couple
with all manner of demons swirling around their minds. Tina (Alice
Lowe) still lives with her mum, has been traumatized by the death of
her dog, Poppy, and knits. Having seen nothing of the world, an
invitation from her new boyfriend, Chris (Steve Oram), to join him on a
caravan holiday around Yorkshire with an itinerary that includes a tram
village and a pencil museum, is tantamount to a golden ticket to a new
life. However, her overbearing, overly dependent witch of a mother
doesn't want her to go and Chris has an angry streak with murderous
Sightseers is beautifully downbeat and both subtler and far darker than
Dexter could ever manage. It never makes a big deal of being funny but
casually drops in five-star moments throughout that don't always cause
belly laughs but do prompt a regular supply of chuckles and wide-eyed
smiles. The action, or rather certain activities by the odd couple,
however, causes explosive guffaws and shrieks of delight, the bloodier
the better judging from the small audience I shared the experience
with. There's no judgment from me on that score, I laughed as loud as
the best of them.
The first murder we enjoy is swift, but the effect lasts long and the
understated humour of the act echoes some time later as Chris
nonchalantly washes the remaining of the blood off his caravan wheel.
His mild annoyance followed by a passing satisfaction at a job well
done are precursors to the simmering rage that follows.
Sightseers doesn't skimp on the horror although director Ben Wheatley
keeps the gore and actual violence to acceptable (for those with a
strong stomach) levels. He has crafted some genuinely disturbing scenes
that take their time building the anticipation until the inevitable and
occasionally truly brutal conclusion arrives. There is one quick shot
of a, um, demolished head that will have you reaching for a pause
button to admire the make-up if nothing else.
But the joy of Sightseers is not in the moments of horror but in the
consistency of the subtle humour from Osram's and Lowe's stinging
screenplay as much as their chillingly dour performances. Their
performances are never fanciful but frighteningly convincing and turn
the stomach ever so slightly when one recalls brief interactions with
similar characters in real life.
Sightseers invades the brain, it expulses laughter from the belly and
at times it wriggles under the skin like white noise and scratches at
the nerves. It isn't always easy to watch and the occasional quip is
over-egged as if neither cast nor director were convinced it would work
completely. It's a minor criticism and a great pity because whenever
the dialogue and performances are restrained to levels of naturalism,
and that occurs for a good 95% of the film, Sightseers flies. One of
the funniest, non-violent moments occurs as Tina struggles to write a
note with a six-foot pencil. It's a moment of genius that is allowed to
play out in its own time and manner without a wink at the audience to
tell us it is a good moment to laugh.
Wheatley's previous offering, 2011's Kill List, left me cold. It
disturbed and annoyed in equal measures and Sightseers is a vast
improvement. More than that, it's a standout film for the year and,
though not quite on the humour plane of The Guard, it's the funniest
film I've seen this year so far and has marked out Wheatley's follow
up, A Field in England, as a film to look forward to in 2013.
After yesterday's battle with First Great Western trains and the threat
of dark happenings in the company of caravanners, I think I'm going to
stick to my car in future.
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