Sightseers (2012) **1/2
Dir. Ben Wheatley
Starring: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram
Review By Greg Klymkiw
They're not young.
They're pretty homely.
They're in love.
They kill people.
Welcome to the world of Sightseers, a movie that's less than 90 minutes long and has about 30 minutes of really entertaining material and a whole lot of wheel spinning.
Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) are not what any prospective in-law would traditionally consider a good "catch" for the apple of their eye. Then again, most parents of said individuals would probably have to agree.
Tina is a dullard living in middle-class emptiness with her abusive, mean-spirited harridan of a mother.
Granted, Mom has some reason to browbeat her unmarried, pasty-faced progeny since the twit was responsible for their frou-frou doggie getting impaled upon knitting needles.
Mom also has reason to dislike Tina's boyfriend Chris who has apparently killed someone - albeit by accident.
"I don't like you," says Mom to the bearded, beady-eyed sack of potatoes who is not only boinking her daughter, but about to embark upon a vacation through the dullest, ugliest part of England with her only begotten child in a motorhome.
The lovebirds take to the open road. After a bit of rockiness in their relationship, things seem to settle nicely until Tina notices that Chris's annoyance at fellow travellers manifests itself into pure, obsessive, unmitigated, psychopathic hatred for these miscreants who litter or look at him the wrong way or chide him for letting their dog crap on the lawn of a heritage site.
Chris does what any annoyed curmudgeon would do. He kills the fuckers. This appears to mildly concern Tina, but soon, she's all for it and even starts to kill people all on her lonesome. This annoys Chris to no end as he feels Tina has no acceptable justification for killing as he, uh, does.
Some of this is very, very funny. It's even mildly satisfying to see annoying people murdered. The problem with the movie is that our protagonists aren't especially interesting. The tagline on the ads and posters suggests they're "average". Wrong. They're ultimately way less than average.
What we're left with a satire-want-to-be that is little more than extended one-note sketch. What would have been perfectly acceptable as a short film, feels unnecessarily elongated in a feature length format.
Steve Oram is pretty darn amusing in his role - especially when director Ben (Kill List, Down Terrace) Wheatley focuses upon Chris's slow burns during the most mild of transgressions. Alice Lowe matches him quite nicely in her doormat-turned-woman-of-power. Alas, both of these performances, while consistent and solid, crush under the weight of the screenplay (that both actors wrote).
There's really nowhere for this story or characters to go that we don't see coming many beats in advance. The "surprise" ending, which isn't much of a surprise since any savvy viewer will figure out where things are headed long before, leaves us with the taste of inevitability in our mouths as we exit the cinema.
When the laughs come, they're big ones, but overall we're left feeling drained beyond the material's capacity to sustain our interest. There's nothing especially suspenseful about the proceedings and while the film is suitably muted when it needs to be, this tone is also the movie's eventual undoing.
"Sightseers" via Mongrel Media premieres at TIFF 2012.