Dead in a week (or your money back) is set against the grey streets of South London, where our lead William (Aneurin Barnard) aims to kill himself. We’re introduced to him on the edge of a bridge overlooking the Thames, his ninth attempt to end his life. It’s a tense moment broken by the introduction of Leslie (Tom Wilkinson), a ‘professional’ in these matters. The dark comedy in this first scene teases at a complex absurdist film, akin to In Brugesor Trainspotting, but the payoff doesn’t come to fruition leaving the audience wondering what might have been had the script been tighter and less cliché.
William is handed a business card from Leslie, who works for the Assassin’s Guild and offers the quick clean kill that William craves. When asked about why he wants to do it William regales him with his anxieties of being a struggling writer with unending ennui, only for Leslie to cut him off and write down cancer – it’s a small box. Once the contract is signed and the payment placed in escrow, William lies in wait for his surprise murder.
Soon after this, William is informed that his unpublished novel may be published after all if he can attend a business meeting. From here the film becomes both predictable and complicated, William starts to regret his decision and falls for a girl. At this point the film finds the weakest link – the main character. Aneurin does well with what he’s given but there’s nothing about William’s character that hasn’t been done before to make hi stand out.
Meanwhile, Tom Wilkinson delivers a truly funny and endearing performance as an aged assassin, whose greatest worry is finding parking in London. Eager to meet his quota by killing William he’s appalled when William does the inevitable and realise life may be worth living after all. Tom is only momentarily outshined by co-star Christopher Ecclestone who play his boss at the Assassin’s Guild. The scenes between these two great actors is where the film lifts into what it could have been, had it maintained this passion and ridiculousness throughout.
Leslie is told his aging skills have begun to show and it’s time to hand over to the younger generation, specifically the guilds’ newest and best assassin Ivan. The film turns momentarily xenophobic when Leslie comments about Eastern Europeans stealing his job, in a way that is not tongue-in-cheek. This is brushed past as the film moves helter-skelter from Williams’ book deal, his new relationship, to Leslie’s work spat and his wife’s application into an embroidery competition. All plotlines converge but the journey is not unique enough to garner your attention.
Dead in a week (or your money back) is not as dark nor as funny as it wants to be. There’s a lot going on that could have worked if it had been worked on. Tom Wilkinson and Christopher Ecclestone are not enough to carry this film, though their scenes are definite highlights, the film as a whole does not get this treatment. As a film dealing with depression and suicide, it’s ironic to say it could have gained with more life in its’ main character William.
Dead in a week (or your money back) is set for release on 16th November, 2018.
Words by Sunny Ramgolam @SunnyRamgolam.