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Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)


Stars: Aneurin Barnard, Tom Wilkinson, Freya Mavor, Marion Bailey, Christopher Eccleston, Nigel Lindsay

Director: Tom Edmunds

How many times have films given us the tale of the person who hires a hitman to end their life, then changes their mind? Here's a broadly comic spin on the idea, with uneasy undercurrents of violence.

The notion runs out of steam as it goes along, but does contain just enough chuckles to keep its audience modestly entertained.

William (Barnard) is desperately trying to pluck up enough bottle to jump off a London bridge when he's accosted by a solicitous stranger (Wilkinson's best performance in a while) who tells him there are better ways to end it all, before handing him a calling card that says 'Leslie O'Neill: Assassin'.

William, who plays Leonard Cohen records to cheer himself up, has already attempted suicide several times, with disastrous consequences. Even when he walked into traffic, he was hit by an ambulance. When his Thames-bound tumble fares no better, only sending him through the canopy of a passing pleasure boat, he agrees to meet O'Neill with a view to a kill.

William has two grand in the bank, but O'Neill scoffs 'I wouldn't reverse over you in a Ford Fiesta for that'. Still, an agreement is reached, but William, a would-be writer, is unexpectedly contacted by publisher's representative Ellie (Mavor), who tells him they like his much-rejected book. And now he has an idea for another...

So he tells her about the contract. 'I wanted to be hit by a truck after pushing a child out of the way,' he says. 'But I could only afford 'quick and painless'.'

You can pretty well guess the rest, even if it beggars belief that the never-fail O'Neill, top man in the 'British Guild of Assassins', could proceed to fail several times in his quest to 'fill his quota' for the last time before retirement.

The film has some good ideas, but can't really put them together into a fluid whole. But scenes of O'Neill's home life with a forever-crocheting wife (Bailey) are mildly amusing, as the director struggles throughout to achieve a balance between giggles and gore. Not bad.

David Quinlan

UK 2017. UK Distributor: Altitude. Colour by Panalux.
90 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 12 Nov 2018