Movies

Dead in a Week is ‘deliriously dark’

This jet-black comedy from first-time writer/director Tom
Edmunds really grabbed me when Tom Wilkinson’s character, a
member of the fictional (I hope!) British Guild of Assassins,
glances at a conference program. Seminars include “Making It
Look Like Suicide” and “Know Your Poisons.” And at the top of
the page is a crest and the motto “Death is a Living.” At least
I think that’s what it translates to. Many a film uses fake
Latin to fill up a page we barely notice; this one actually
includes the real thing!

Wilkinson’s character, Leslie O’Neil, has been hired by one
William Morrison (Aneurin Barnard, looking appropriately
sallow). William wants to kill himself but can’t quite make it
happen. When he leaps from a bridge he lands on a boat; a
toaster in the tub merely shorts out his flat; and when he
throws himself into traffic he gets hit by – wait for it – an
ambulance.

Leslie assures him he can do the job: “I’ve killed more people
than you’ve had hot baths.” With the paperwork complete, he
smiles: “Congratulations; you’ve just signed your own death
warrant.”

Trouble is – and this plot twist is no surprise, really – as
soon as the ink on the contract is dry, William decides he has
a reason to live after all, and wants to back out of the deal.
Leslie, in danger of losing his job if he fails to make quota,
isn’t having that. And so a chain of events is set into motion
involving a publishing assistant (Freya Mavor) and the head of
the guild (Christopher Eccleston, clearly told to Guy Ritchie
it up).

Edmunds balances the tone nicely, keeping things from getting
too dark by employing a jolly/ironic soundtrack, wonderfully
quirky characters – Leslie’s wife (Marion Bailey) is into
competitive needlepoint – and a handful of well-timed Monty
Python references; I counted three, if you allow that a
deceased budgie is to a dead parrot what an African swallow is
to the European variety.

It’s also a particularly meaty role for Wilkinson, who’s played
villains before but never one quite so grounded as this one. He
could, if he wanted, perhaps even parlay this into a
late-career Liam-Neeson-ian action sideline. His character
certainly knows his worth, telling William during their
negotiations: “I wouldn’t reverse over you in a Ford Fiesta for
that kind of money.”

Provided you don’t take it too seriously – it’s only death and
life after all – Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back)
offers a deliriously dark night at the movies. Dying is easy,
they say; comedy is hard. This one manages both.

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