The meaning of the title of Malik Bader’s nasty crime thriller isn’t revealed until just before the end. It’s not worth the wait. Nor is the rest of “Killerman” worth your time.
The plot revolves around a couple of low-level NYC money-launderers whose attempt to make some extra cash goes haywire, with bloody results. They’re Moe Diamond (Liam Hemsworth), a stoic, taciturn fellow with a pregnant girlfriend named Lola (Diane Guerrero), and his scruffy, nervous partner Skunk (Emory Cohen), who idolizes him. They make ends meet by helping Skunk’s uncle Perico (Zlatko Buric) turn his ill-gotten gains into nice cashier’s checks, with a few stops in between (including, at one point, gold ingots).
Perico seems pleased with their work, so he offers them a chance to feather their nests further by helping him morph a bundle associated with a real estate deal he’s arranged with some crooked politicians. He assigns the duo to launder no less than $2,000,000 a day over the following two weeks, which will bring them a lucrative commission, a cool million each.
They take charge of the first installment of cash, but Perico abruptly orders a delay, and they see no reason to let all that money sit idle without bringing in a return. So they quickly arrange to use it in a lucrative drug deal involving some Nigerians and a bag of cocaine, which can then be resold at a profit. Unfortunately, the deal turns out to be a set-up, ending in a staged interruption by a corrupt cop named Leo (Nickola Shreli) and his confederates. A sniper gives Moe and Skunk the chance to escape with both the loot and the drugs, but in the course of their getaway they’re involved in a car crash that leaves them both seriously injured—Moe more so, however, since it turns out he’s suffering not just from the obvious physical bruises but that old pulp standby, amnesia (curiously, though the malady doesn’t impede him overmuch, it does bring certain personal complications).
Despite their troubles, the guys have to make things right in order to survive. That won’t be easy, as Leon is hot on their trail (the drugs, you see, have to be returned to the police evidence room), and Perico is unlikely to be too happy with the misuse of his cash. Neither Bader’s script nor his direction manages to keep the goings-on completely clear, but Moe and Skunk have to fight their way through obstacle after obstacle en route to the retrieval of money and coke. Many bodies fall along the way, and there’s some brutal torture as well.
It’s difficult to care a whit about what happens to these two scummy guys, especially since neither Hemsworth nor Cohen makes his character remotely likable or interesting, though the former lends his movie-star presence and the latter his gift for playing squirrely to the proceedings. The supporting cast offers some bluster but little more—especially Buric, who bellows and scowls as Perico, and Shreli, who comes across like a bargain-basement Vin Diesel as the sadistic cop. Guerrero is totally wasted in a thankless role.
Technical credits are okay: Freddy Waff’s production design certainly captures the seediness of the setting (according to the card occurring before the final credits, the story chronologically occurs in 2014), and DP Ken Seng collaborates with Bader in shaping some decent action sequences. Editor Rick Grayson could have sharpened the pacing; there’s really no reason for a piece like this to push the two-hour limit. Whoever is responsible for choreographing the car crash did a good job, as did those who provided the fake blood for the grisly scenes of violence: quite a few people get bullets in the head, with pretty explosive visual results.
“Killerman” is a thoroughly mediocre slice of big-city criminality and shady doings, unredeemed by its two capable stars. On cable or a streaming service it might pass muster; in the theatre it’s eminently disposable.