Review: KILLING LOVE Kills Off Comic Potential Way Too Quickly
Polish mainstream comedy has been in a state of stagnation for quite some time now. The many recent attempts at reviving its former glory, unfortunately, almost always ended in -- more or less comical -- disaster.
It seems that the country's filmmakers have secretly agreed that what should constitute a hilarious and crowd-pleasing film are excessive vulgarity and nudity, banal acting (female roles are downplayed if not invisible), little to no narration, and jokes that rarely hit the mark. It may seem harsh, but it's drastically hard to name even ten comedies released in the last decade that would be worth recommending to someone who's not really into lowbrow entertainment.
Jakub Niescierow hasn't directed a single feature in the last twelve years, focusing on writing scripts for Polish TV dramas instead. And to say that Killing Love (Kochanie, chyba cie zabilem) definitely looks as though it's been made for small screens wouldn't be much of a compliment. Advertised as a "dark comedy" and "one of the funniest upcoming Polish movies", Killing Love manages to squeeze some tasteful juice out of the deliberately clichéd plot, but the somehow misguided mixture of various genres blend into one slow-moving, tactless, badly acted farce leaves almost nothing more than a sour aftertaste.
The English title of the film might be confusing. Killing Love sounds decidedly too serious and would be perhaps more suitable for your typical melodrama. Kochanie, chyba cie zabilem loosely translates as "Honey, I Think I Killed You" and, like Honey, I Shrunk the Kinds, falls into a comedy category with much more confidence. Released as such, it would probably immediately bring to mind other, similarly lighthearted fares.
Jan (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a rich and successful businessman, suspects that his wife might be having an affair, but his good nature doesn't allow him to investigate further. As expected, one night he comes home early and finds his wife in bed with another man, who also happens to be his boss. After an absurd discussion (still one of the most amusing in the film), Jan accidentally fires a gun and kills the cheating couple. His friend and a private detective, a Nick Slaughter from Sweating Bullets type of guy, secretly records the whole incident in a familiar voyeuristic manner and then initiates a series of more-pathetic-than-humorous situations.
By mistake, the video falls into the hands of a young and clumsy video store worker named Kacper (Marcin Korcz). Oppressed by his boorish employer, the boy sniffs a chance for some easy money and threatens the killer that he'll upload evidence of the crime online. Thus begins a nonsensical journey, as Jan, along with Kacper and his girlfriend Wika (Anna Karczmarczyk), jumps into his fancy car and drives north towards the sea. Why Jan, a Varsovian, keeps his money in a bank in Sopot, and why he wants to flee the country by ship and not by plane, as any reasonable murderer would probably do, are matters worth considering while pondering the plot's many holes.
Though most jokes here are oft-repeated, perhaps the good thing is that the number of swear words is kept at an adequately low level and in comparison to many other similar pictures it's not as offensive. Dialogue that involves cursing is strangely unavoidable when it comes to comedies both Polish and foreign, but using swear words as commas is perhaps too much. Here, they're merely meant to express the actors' anger and disappointment, yet rather not at their characters' failures, but at certain displeasure that comes with poor performances.
Film references appear on screen faster than dead bodies pile up, and there are plenty of them. It's only a shame that Niescierow didn't make better use of a clever video store game based on a simple concept: one person creates a rebus puzzle out of three DVD covers and the other person has to guess the meaning of it. Simple yet so fulfilling, especially for cinephiles.
From an obvious parody of a conventional crime thriller, through a buddy cop comedy, to a road movie, Killing Love addresses all the recognizable notions too hastily and without much consideration for the actual meaning of all the recurring clichés. The chemistry between Gras (Arkadiusz Jakubik) and Wierzbowski (Ireneusz Czop), polar opposite cops who are on a dangerous case, doesn't work because the characters act like cardboard cutouts and the inane dialogue rarely goes beyond the sphere of pure shallowness. Gras is fearful and overly superstitious, but his awkwardness is actually the primary source of laughter, while the Dirty Harry-loving Wierzbowski proves that comedy isn't really Czop's forte.
Though pretty lackluster and plain, Killing Love might still be the most approachable Polish comedy of the yesteryear. To think of it as an actual feature makes it pretty much awful. It's better to watch Killing Love as a parody, and not only of the previously mentioned genres, but as a parody of itself, too. Only then is it a bit easier to laugh at the film's straightforward silliness.
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