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Mack the Knife: Slice Examines the Making of a Serial Killer with Heart and Style

  Sorradithep Supachanya / 22 October 2009
   
 

Children need tender loving care. Those deprived of it, well, may grow up to be a serial killer. Slice, the latest who-dun-it murder thriller by Muaythai Chaiya director, Kongkiat Khomsiri, based on the story written by Wisit Sasanatieng of Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog fame, engages in the longtime debate of nature versus nurture. The film goes into length to show, without demonizing the subject, the serial killer as being no different from you and me if only were tortured, broken, and pushed beyond the limit.

Slice opens with a series of homicides that captures national attention. Lieutenant Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich), the police chief in charge of solving the case, runs into dead-ends as he fruitlessly tries to connect the seemingly unrelated murders. He turns to Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri), a prison inmate who seems to have a clue about the killers identity and whereabouts (remnants from murder scenes lead Tai to believe that the killer is his long-lost childhood friend). As Tai tracks him down, the past returns to haunt him and the film shifts in and out of flashbacks, recounting how a harmless child is transmogrified into a heartless murderer.

Once again, Kongkiat Khomsiri proves he is a masterful storyteller. The plot gradually peels the killers monster identity to reveal an abused child whose childhood has been permanently scarred by bullies, beating, and sexual abuses. His first murder was an act of self-protection, and what he has gone through makes us understand why he seeks an all-out revenge on those who has taken his childhood away. Tai, the closest thing to a friend, also gets a multidimensional treatment, as his own scarred childhood and insecurity sometimes sabotage the relationship. I only wish the film would not fast-forward to adulthood too quickly at the end, resulting in a rather incomplete transformation as we dont get to see how or when the killer has set his mind to revenge, and how or when Tai severs their friendship.

Another weak spot is the supposedly emotional (re)encounter of Tai and the killer. Given the extensive narration of their uneasy friendship in their younger years, I would imagine the scene to be filled with a complex mix of questions, remorse, and anger. Instead, the two engages in too casual of a conversation and the entire scene seems disappointingly anti-climatic. For other characters, Lieutenant Chin loses some dimensions as the film progresses and more could be said about his action and motive, especially his almost uncontrollable lust for Noi (Jessica Pasapan), Tais girlfriend. The rocky relationship between Noi and Tai itself also deserves more screen time.

But, apart from these few bumps, the plot keeps the audience alerted, intrigued, and thrilled as Tai chases the killer and confronts the past. And the climax scene adds a shocking twist to the already fascinating storyline.

 

 

Arak Amornsupasiri proves that practice makes perfect. His performance here is a dramatic improvement from his earlier works like Body. Veteran actor Chatchai Plengpanich shines, as usual, in his limited screen time. Muaythai Chaiyas excellent supporting cast, Sonthaya Chitmanee, is rather underused here as the police chiefs sidekick. But much kudos to the two child actors, whose names unforgivably escape me, to carry the heart and weight of the story.

Slice may be a notch below the directors previous work. But its fine acting and excellent treatment of the subject are enough to make it one of the most mature and satisfying murder thrillers of this year.


   

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