Finally getting a brief theatrical release after kicking up some praise on the festival circuit, the Australian neo-noir thriller The Suicide Theory is a smartly written and satisfying take on the hitman genre featuring a standout performance from Steve Mouzakis. Though he’s been a regular in Aussie film and TV for a decade, this is the role that should have Hollywood calling.
Mouzakis is Steven Ray, a stone-cold killer for hire unmoved by pleas for mercy. But his new job is a strange one: Percival (Leon Cain) wants to die but lives through every suicide attempt, permanently disfiguring himself in the process. Percival pays for Steven to kill him though he’s convinced that he can’t die, that the cruel fates want to keep him alive for some unexplained reason.
Steven scoffs but, as Percival survives every one of Steven’s attempts to snuff out his life, he becomes more of a believer. From there, with the men forging a twisted friendship through their murderous business deal, The Suicide Theory goes in unexpected directions.
It culminates in a surprise ending that, unlike many thrillers, doesn’t feel cheap or unearned.
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Young director Dru Brown, working from a sharply written script by Michael J. Kospiah, creates a taut atmosphere, turning sunny, semi-tropical Brisbane into a nighttime world of shadows and darkness. At the heart of it is Mouzakis, whose performance as the weary, worn-down Steven Ray — whom viewers are introduced to in the first scene by his beating a man to death with a tub of ice cream — will have you wondering where this guy has been all these years.
It’s easy to see why The Suicide Theory won the grand jury prize at LA’s Dances With Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival and nabbed three awards at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival last year. Brown and Mouzakis have created the kind of small film that displays big talent.
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The Suicide Theory
Director: Dru Brown
Cast: Steve Mouzakis, Leon Cain
Rated: R (strong violence, strong language, some sexual content)
Running time: 95 min.