When bicycling London bobby Baz (Kevin Bishop) gets a nasty bump on the head, he turns from put upon plod to maniac cop in British black comedy May I Kill U? Using his helmet-cam to capture footage of his retribution tactics, Baz goes on a killing spree and becomes an internet phenomenon in the process. Uploading videos of his actions and tweeting about his encounters, Baz has the backing of many people who in the wake of the London riots are desperate to see the police take real action in cleaning the streets. Not only does Baz have to keep his internet identity a secret from his policing partner Val (Hayley-Marie Axe), but also from his overbearing alcoholic mother Bernice (Frances Barber).
Kevin Bishop appears born to play the psychopathic sad sack, managing to make Baz both annoying but also strangely likeable. His permanently befuddled, gormless stare barely even gives way even as he murders his suspecting victims. Meanwhile Jack Doolan tries his best with a totally underwritten and thankless role as Baz’s eventual nemesis Seth. The women in the cast come off somewhat better with some slightly meatier roles. Frances Barber relishes being the bitter, contemptuous old shrew of a burdening mother to Baz. It might be a bit of a one note performance but Barber makes her Bernice memorable and a standout villain in a film full of fairly unlikeable characters.
Both of Baz’s potential love interests Val and Maya make for intriguing characters. Hayley-Marie Axe particularly as Baz’s long suffering policing partner Val creates an interesting character, tough on the outside but shy and smart beneath it. Baz and Val clearly share a bond, unsurprisingly considering their similar right wing views and lack of social skills but it is with another woman that Baz begins to find something possibly approaching love. He rescues Maya (Kasia Koleczek) from human traffickers and she ends up living with him leading to some mildly amusing but mostly obvious exchanges with his jealous mother. Maya is easily the most sympathetic victim in the story and it is depressing watching her go from sex crime victim to domestic house pet of Baz and object of scorn for his mother.
The budget limitations show themselves in the early scenes of rioting in the capital but generally the film has impressive production values considering its low budget. The film mostly manages a good pace through some energetic camerawork and editing but there is nothing here as inventive as the wonderful whip pans and fizzy fast editing of Edgar Wright’s work. The use of Baz’s helmet cam and the appearance of his tweets and texts on screen give the film some limited visual flair but not enough to distract from the lacklustre script.
The cast are game and the direction is functional, if not outstanding. May I Kill U? attempts to see the funny side of serial killers and throws a range of serial killer clichés in from the overbearing mother to the bumps on the head triggering psychosis but lacks the wit of the Ealing style comedy it hopes to be. It’s an idea laced with potential but squandered in an undercooked script that relies too heavily on the ridiculousness of the characters and situation while trying to remain realistic. The riots of last year are fertile ground for a serious exploration of problems with policing and perhaps there is an excellent satire to be made. Unfortunately this is not it.
Despite satirical pot-shots at Twitter, internet celebrity, youth apathy and police impotence, rarely does May I Kill U? destroy its targets. While mostly failing as dark comedy, the film could find favour with the horror crowd for inventive killings. Unfortunately the best the film has to offer is an apathetic looter smashed to death by a flat screen TV he was pinching. There is nothing as satisfying or vaguely creative as this first death scene.
The idea of a psycho vigilante cop isn’t new with Baz having numerous cinematic antecedents from Dirty Harry to Maniac Cop. There are even vague echoes of TV’s Dexter with a serial killing law enforcer. But Baz`s conversion to killing machine is too abrupt and his victims too ridiculously oblivious to their impending deaths for any plot point to be believable.
Despite the odd chuckle inducing line, May I Kill U? lacks big laughs, inventive kills or any really funny or smart social satire. Through no fault of the performers who all make the most of the material, the film still fails to hit its targets. May I Kill U? is no death sentence for anyone involved or the audience but its script could have been tougher on crime and even tougher on the causes of bad scripts.
May I Kill U? is released on January 13th 2013