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The Kill Room: A Disappointing Attempt at Black Comedy | Review

As a black comedy, it’s mediocre (Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson aren't enough to evoke Tarantino), and as a satire of contemporary art, it’s superficial: more a b-movie than a direct-to-video.
The Kill Room (2023)

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The Kill Room (2023)
Directed by Nicol Paone

The meaning of the title only becomes clear at the end, but it doesn’t take a very shrewd eye to figure out where The Kill Room, the second film by Nicol Paone, a character actress and screenwriter, is headed. The casting of Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson hints at a Tarantino-esque universe, though the tone is distinctly lesser, not just in terms of dark humor but also in its execution (and appeal: the resurrected Thurman is over-the-top, Jackson hams it up with a fake beard).

Paone brings together two theoretically distant worlds, contemporary art and crime, the former represented by Thurman, an Adderall-addicted gallery owner on the brink of financial ruin, and the latter by Jackson and Joe Manganiello, both working for the mafia in money laundering. At a crossroads, the three team up to form an improbable business: since Thurman needs something valuable to sell, Manganiello decides to unleash his hidden artistic talents, creating a painting that quickly sells for an exorbitant amount, giving rise to the mysterious artist The Bagman, a rising star who immediately attracts media and buyers’ attention. This sets off a plan that culminates in the (spoiler) performance hinted at by the title, with shopping bags turning from murder weapons into collectible pieces.

As a black comedy, the intentions don’t match the results, and the acidity comes off more as a pose than an attitude. As a satire on contemporary art, it’s superficial, a sort of nutshell version of the overrated The Square. Thurman is committed only to a certain extent (her daughter Maya Hawke also appears), Jackson sticks to caricature (is the curiosity of an African-American who speaks Yiddish enough?), and Manganiello is so lacking in charisma that he seems merely decorative. There are occasional ironic moments and some curious appearances (like the clumsy drug dealer), but the pace is sluggish, and clichés abound. More of a b-movie than a direct-to-video.

Lorenzo Ciofani

Cinematografo, June 5, 2024

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