The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Suicide Theory

The Suicide Theory has what is destined to be one of the hookiest premises of the year. A suicidal man named Percival (Leon Cain) hires professional killer Steven Ray (Steve Mouzakis) to murder him. The hitch is that Percival claims he's cursed and somehow not susceptible to death – or at least not until he doesn't want to die anymore. A disbelieving Steven shoots him point blank, only to discover that the guy isn't lying.

What follows from there is a story about how these two men form a rather unusual bond. Both understand sorrow. Steven is mourning the hit-and-run death of his wife. Percival, meanwhile, reveals that his despondence stems from the death of his male partner. The killer attempts to follow through on his assignment, but the intended victim somehow always survives. Working to find a way to accomplish the task brings the characters together, while also revealing unexpected connections between them.

The Suicide Theory is part black comedy, part thriller. At times, it's darkly funny how Percival lives through one situation after another that logically should end his life. (There's a recurring joke in which doctors tell him, “You're lucky to be alive!”) Steven's exasperation is humorous, as well. He tries to chalk everything up to “bad aim” or some kind of fluke. As the movie goes on, though, it becomes darker and grittier. There is a suggestion that Steven can somehow find healing by successfully killing Percival; he'd be helping the man get rid of the misery that he himself cannot escape. It eventually stops being a job and becomes more of a personal mission, bordering on an obsession. Director Dru Brown makes sure both halves of the movie work together in an enticing manner. It weaves a spell that keeps you waiting to see what new development will arrive next.

A big reason why the film works is because of Steve Mouzakis's performance. Many actors, tasked with playing a tormented killer, emphasize the killing over the torment. Mouzakis does the opposite, showing how Steven's work is an extension of the pain he feels in life. We see the character's troubles, yet glimpses of the happier person he once was shine through, which makes their suppression feel even more tragic. Because of the actor's fine work, we truly come to care about a man who does terrible things. Leon Cain is good, too, nicely conveying Percival's amusement over his own immortality, especially in a subplot involving a confrontation with some violent homophobes.

The only real stumbling block with The Suicide Theory is the way it winds to its conclusion. Despite introducing some provocative themes, the movie never pays them off as deeply as it could have. When all is said and done, it ends up more as a thriller with a Twilight Zone-y twist, rather than as a profound meditation on the ideas it raises.

Nevertheless, the film benefits from good performances and a story that absolutely captures your attention. The Suicide Theory is funny and disturbing, and a picture that's tough to take your eyes off once you start watching it.

( out of four)

The Suicide Theory is rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.

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