I am of two minds regarding The National Lottery.
On the one hand, it is a reprehensible exploitation of public will. Leeching off of the weak and the desperate, it promises gargantuan cash prizes that will fulfil all of our hopes and desires; fix our broken dreams and elevate our desperate existence through greater material wealth.
All we have to do in return is to succumb to the cult of greed and spend our hard earned cash on an overprized ticket week after week, because as the old saying goes ‘you can’t win if you don’t play the game’…
On the other hand, it helps to fund interesting and ambitious projects like Gerard Johnson’s Tony: London Serial Killer; a movie which bravely represents those members of the British public that we refuse to see, characters that, fittingly, would probably engage in the weekly national gamble.
We enter the story through a series of mesmerising shots that drift behind our titular protagonist as he floats through an empty London marketplace.
It’s a deliberately ethereal sequence that manages to be both drab and beautiful, an effect which pays off in dividends and perfectly captures the ethos of Tony’s utterly unremarkable life. Yes, for a man who murders people on a regular basis, he lives a surprisingly boring existence, even when he’s bludgeoning someone to death with a hammer.
Tony’s daily routine consists of watching eighties action flicks on shredded VHS and engaging in awkward conversation with the living and dead alike. He keeps those he kills around the house, displaying them in thoroughly ordinary positions and asking if they want a cup of tea.
It should feel disturbing, but instead feels pathetic. Considering Tony’s tendancy to commit unforgiveable acts of horror, we can’t help but feel for him as he tries so desperately to understand the world around him. Each time he finds himself in another teeth grindingly awkward social situation one can’t help but root for this sad character, one that the world refuses to acknowledge.
Refusal, apathy and ignorance lay heavy in the heart of this film. Tony is a victim in his own right, equal to – if not close to – that of the people he murders. He and they are ignored by everyone; they are engulfed by the autonomy of the city.
At one point, Tony kills a smack addict and lets his friend live to tell the tale. There are no consequences to this, however, as no one can see or hear the escapee’s story, he is lost to the city and ignored by all. Tony knew that his voice would not be heard just as much as his own falls on deaf ears every day. Tony may say nothing of importance to anyone, but it is in the desperate way that he says it that we find something truly worthy to listen to; desperation for understanding and compassion.
Where Tony… does falter slightly is in its wispy, episodic approach to narrative.
The through line is vague to the point of abstraction. Tony’s neighbour suspects him of kidnapping his son and so abuses and apprehends him at any given opportunity. However, the consequences of this instance are felt all too rarely and so give no real sense of direction to the film as a whole. This is, of course, a deliberate effect as Tony is a directionless hermit designed to feel cut off from the world around him, he himself unawares of the impending doom that may befall him. But this does not stop the plot from feeling underdeveloped, like a series of mini narratives stuck loosely together in a patchwork format.
Tony… is a refreshing and brilliant debut from director Gerard Johnson. It’s flawed, undeniably, deliberately formless to both clever and shallow effect, but this does not mare the films emotional impact. Tony is a character that will almost certainly hit a chord with the nations populace, if they will only see and hear him, I am sure of this.