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Painkiller (2011)

 |  Short, Comedy, Drama
7.5
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Street-smart Dominic's armed robbery of a convenience store goes wrong when he crosses paths with hard-working Jay, a taxi driver with nothing left to lose. Mutual contempt soon turns into ... See full summary »

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Dominic
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Jay
...
Mark
Daphne Cheung ...
Jay's Wife
Henry Wu ...
Jay's Son
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Street-smart Dominic's armed robbery of a convenience store goes wrong when he crosses paths with hard-working Jay, a taxi driver with nothing left to lose. Mutual contempt soon turns into a kind of understanding, but not without some pain along the way. Written by Anonymous

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It is technically strong, but has issues with the balance of tone, and how well the material can work
14 March 2015 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

An armed robbery in a convenience store turns ugly when a shopper who had planned to kill himself, decides that being murdered would make much more sense.

I recently watched the short film Mohammed from Mustapha Kseibati and was reading an interview from him afterwards where he said that Painkiller was technically his strongest piece, so I decided to give that watch. In terms of the production values he is correct since the film is well shot, has a good urgency, some good effects, and also knows when to let the two main actors have a little bit of space to play off one another. In this regard the film is, as he said, technically strong. What was more interesting to me though, was that it also showed the same difficulties as Mohammed, which was that the films both have a similar fundamental problem, and that the root of this appears to be the same for both projects.

The issue is that the film requires a blend of different tones, and this is not easy to do. In the case of Painkiller we have a dramatic robbery, a comedy clerk, an actual human tragedy, and a character selling the virtue of crime – all on the way to a real moment of connection between the two characters; it is quite the shifting landscape and, although I thought the film did pretty well at it, it is ultimately too much for it to pull off. It isn't for want of trying though but the challenges are not adequately dealt with at the script level, so even making the scene work better by virtue of the delivery, it still doesn't work so well as it could have. The scenario I liked in essence, as it produces good drama between the two men – it escalates and turns around far too quickly though, and I didn't think it handled this well enough. Likewise the comedy- clerk didn't work for me in the context of the more intense drama happening a few meters in front of him – and this continues to be a problem as the film adds violence into the comedy palette.

The cast work all aspects of it hard though, and they are well cast to have some talented people in here. I liked Drameh very much in Attack the Block, and he is again a strong presence here; likewise Wong is ever reliable, and the film is best when the two of them are interacting in one way or another. This again reminds me of the issues at the script level, because it is a problem that these interactions are not as strong content-wise as I would have liked. In support Saddler has the near-thankless role of the clerk.

Painkiller is technically well made, and has an engaging scenario with the added appeal of a changing dynamic and threat of sudden violence; however it doesn't meld everything together quite as well as it could have done, and it doesn't get below the surface as much or as long as it needed to.


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