Based on the novel Bryan Smith and adapted and directed by Trent Haaga, at first 68 Kill seemed incongruous in the FrightFest 2017 line up seeing that it’s set up revolves around a heist gone wrong and a man on the run. Little did I expect that this magnificent movie would not only prove to be one of the best films at the fest but stand out as one of my favorite of the whole year.
Criminal Minds star Matthew Gray Gubler plays Chip a nice guy with low ambitions and intelligence who happens to be hooked up with Liza (AnnaLynne McCord from Excision) who is his exact opposite.
A femme fatale of the highest order she convinces Chip to accompany her on a heist to rob the guy she screws to pay their bills and net themselves $68,000 to start a new life away from the squalor of their daily lives where they each literally “shovel shit and suck dick” for a living.
Things take a turn towards the horrifying however when upon entering her Sugar Daddy’s mansion Liza slits his throat and she forces Chip to kidnap Violet (13 Reasons Why’s Alisha Boe) a witness to the murder and the money grabbing.
Taking the sobbing girl to Liza’s demented brother Dwayne (Sam Eidson) to be dealt with Chip starts to relalise that his girlfriend is not the person he thought she was when she reveals her sibling is a serial killer who tapes his torture sessions and asks if he wants to stick around and watch with her.
Freaked out and fleeing with the money and Violet still in the trunk Chip leaves the psychotic controlling woman who has been ruling his life behind but little does he know the lengths Liza will go to get him and the cash back or the duo of strong willed women he is about to encounter on his unplanned and insane escape attempt.
Starting out with scenes that could have been lifted from any number of Tarantino rip offs full of foul mouthed back and forth’s to match, 68 Kill much like Liza herself lures you into a false sense of security and familiarity pulling the rug, floorboards and entire house from under you 15 minutes in when the theft turns into an blood soaked assassination and everything you and Chip thought you knew comes crashing down.
From here 68 Kill accelerates into the dark underside of Americana with a heady mix of sex, violence, humor, terror, tragedy and retribution never taking its foot off of the gas and proving Trent Haaga’s huge talent as a scriptwriter and director as it stylish subverts genre expectations most importantly in the trio of terrific female leads who dominate the film.
Far from a villainous cliché AnnaLynne McCord’s portrayal of Liza is hugely complex offering us a deeply disturbed and driven woman who has learned what it takes to survival in the world she has been thrown into. Like all the main women in 68 Kill she defies stereotyping and it is a triumph of the movie and assembled actresses to clearly display the disparity in mainstream cinema which lacks roles and writing such as this.
Set against Chip’s newly and rudely dumped ex is Violet who appears to be his angelic savior opposed to the red lipped devil that is Liza. Whereas other stories would have focused on her as the pure and innocent victim once again however Alisha Boe’s character is far more nuanced taking control of Chip and the crazy situation with calm and calculating cool imbued with an edge that makes her a lady not to mess with.
Ending this triangle of extreme anti-heroine’s surrounding the weak and emasculated male lead is the malicious and monstrous Monica played with aplomb by A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’s Sheila Vand. Taking all the worst parts of Liza and turning them up to 10 Monica rules the final third of the film and Vand’s performance as this tyrant is terrifyingly good.
An action packed lurid thrill ride for sure 68 Kill packs in a ton of subtext and intelligent insight into not only gender roles and stereotypes in the modern age in society and cinema but also more simply how love blinds us to the blatantly obvious imperfections in our partners we are sometimes weakly willing to ignore.
It also tackles the corruption and perversion of the American Dream which dies every day under the rule of a greedy duplicitous gun loving president that worships the all mighty dollar above all else. This mind numbing mentality helps keep normal people like Chip enslaved creating a situation only a character like Liza could possibly save us from and that’s a scary thought indeed.