Like cancer, terrorism, and Theresa May’s inbox, there’s not much fun to be found in suicide. But that’s not to say there’s no comedy in it.
Chris Morris spun satirical gold out of slapstick jihadists in Three Lions, and life-affirming cancer caper 50/50 deftly showed the funnier side of a terminal illness. But black comedy Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back), through a mix of bad casting and worse writing, fumbles the joke. Rather than break the taboo, the film pops the taboo in your mouth and leaves it marinating there until it forms a bad taste.
William (Aneurin Barnard) is a tortured writer crippled by ennui, whose repeated failed attempts at suicide lead him to hire an ageing contract killer (Tom Wilkinson) to do the job for him. When he finds a love interest in his book publisher (Freya Mavor), he is magically cured of his mental illness and attempts to call off the hit. But the wheels are in motion and, with William unable to prevent his own assassination, a series of ironic japes ensue in which Wilkinson’s murderer-for-hire must reckon with his waning skills.
Only a handful of jokes land in the entire thing, all of them from Christopher Eccleston playing a hardman head honcho of the hitman agency. The problem seems to be that not enough funny people were involved on either side of the camera. Lead man Barnard comes off the worst. He’s no comedian, and seems to whimper all of his lines into the corner of any room he’s standing in, like a human apology.
Dead In A Week clumsily mines a touchy subject for gags and comes up with nothing to show for it. That it doesn’t even attempt to tackle, or even acknowledge, the reality of depression and mental health issues makes it feel especially gutless too.