It is curious to see so many of the big name papers and review sites slating this film. Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it is a well executed, blackly comedic movie that will certainly keep viewers entertained. Will it be one they go back to, will it linger in their memories as something worthy of being singled out? That’s more up for debate.
Dead in a Week tells the story of depressed writer William (Aneurin Barnard) who has failed to kill himself on multiple occasions (ten times, if you also count the ones that were just cries for help). A chance encounter on a bridge during his last attempt brings him into contact with ageing assassin Leslie (Tom Wilkinson) and with nothing else to lose, he literally signs his own death warrant with the promise that he will be killed at some point in the next week (or his money back). Of course the universe loves situations like this, so literally the next day he finds someone willing to publish his book, a girl (Ellie, played by Freya Mavor) that’s interested in him, things start to look up, and he decides he wants to change his mind. Problem is, Leslie is one bodybag short of the quota of assassinations he needs to meet to keep his job and the story (and bodycount) snowballs from there.
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At the core, this is a story about people and how they deal with life. Leslie is afraid to retire, unwilling to give up the one thing that gives his life purpose, facing up to not only the perceived tide of immigration threatening to take his job from him but the rise of a new, younger generation of killer with fewer scruples than he has. William and Ellie are both broken people, finding solace and understanding in each other’s eccentricities and dark senses of humour. Oh yes, one word of warning: if you really don’t like jokes about death, murder or suicide then this is likely one to just skip as there are plenty of them throughout.
Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins, Michael Clayton) is great in this, bringing a world-weary, blue-collar approach to the world of hitmen. He’s friendly, approachable and terribly professional. He even has a brochure! Christopher Ecclestone (Doctor Who, Fortitude) is also quite entertaining in full-on ‘geezer’ mode as Harvey, Leslie’s hard-assed boss. William himself just comes across as a bit wishy-washy, an amalgamation of every mopey unpublished author seen in plenty of other films and books. Ellie, though, steals the show. Quick-witted, confident and sporting a wicked sense of humour she is the perfect foil for the dour William.
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Scoring duties here are taken up by Guy Garvey (lead singer of Elbow), Peter Jacobson (The More You Ignore Me) and Paul Saunderson (Three Identical Strangers, 100 Streets) and it’s a nice little mostly ambient set of tracks. A good choice to stick on in the background while doing other things. Tracks of particular note are ‘New Book Idea’, ‘Harvey Standoff’ (which is gloriously and unashamedly Morricone-esque) and the end title number ‘Come on Through’.
The question that remains, though, is whether or not this is a film worthy of a place in your library. Should you put down your hard earned cash for VOD copy now or just wait till it hits Netflix instead? At full price, this is a difficult one to put down as a must buy. This is more of a “Buy three for thirty quid” kind of movie or, yes, just wait till it arrives on Netflix. Decent enough, certainly not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but not one that necessitates an immediate full price purchase.