In general, films with youth or text-speak titles are to be avoided, and so the annoyingly monikered “uwantme2killhim?” doesn’t exactly hold much initial promise. To be fair, it at least has some justification for its awkward name, being based on bizarre but true events from the UK back in 2003 revolving around teenagers, internet friendships and murder; though still, even trying to pronounce it makes for an unpleasant mouthful.
Directed by Andrew Douglas (“The Amityville Horror”) and produced by Bryan Singer (“X-Men”, “The Usual Suspects”), the film opens with Jamie Blackley (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) as the 16-year-old Mark, being taken into custody by the police after the murder of one of his friends. Flashbacks emerge as he is interviewed, revealing his online relationship with Rachel (Jaime Winstone, “Donkey Punch”), who he fell in love with despite never having met. Totally besotted, Mark agrees to protect her oddball younger brother John (Toby Regbo, “One Day”) from bullies at school, and the two lads soon become friends. After Rachel is murdered by her violent gangster boyfriend, Mark decides to take revenge, and in doing so attracts the online attention of a female MI5 agent who pushes him towards committing homicide for the greater good.
The most striking thing about “uwantme2killhim?”, and both its one real strength and most serious weakness, is the sheer strangeness of its central story, which truly is difficult to believe. With the big twist being telegraphed from early on and likely to be obvious even to those not familiar with the case, there’s not much in the way of tension, and by keeping the supposed shock revelation to the very last few minutes, the film arguably misses the far more intriguing possibility of having focused instead on the psychology of its oddball lead characters.
While on the plus side the story is extraordinary enough to hold the interest, the sheer stupidity and naivety of Mark is hard to swallow, especially given the fairly basic and pedestrian nature of the script, which fails to convince or act as satisfactory cinematic sleight of hand. The problem worsens as things escalate, and Douglas never manages to really milk the scenario for the kind of suspense or surprises that it might have commanded in other hands, his direction generally coming across as flat and better suited to television.
Feeling at times like an even less sensationalistic version of Hideo Nakata’s English language “Chatroom”, the film relies far too much on dull chat sequences of the characters vocalising their inane writings or of dialogue popping up on screen – a technique which becomes old only too quickly. Though both Jamie Blackley and Toby Regbo are perfectly decent in their roles (for which they won a joint award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival), neither has much material to work with, and it’s hard for the viewer to make much of an emotional connection. As a result, it’s difficult to care about what happens, and this further underlines the fact that the central story needed a certain level of depth or substance to make it work.
None of this is to say that “uwantme2killhim?” is a particularly bad film as such, and there’s enough here to make it moderately entertaining during its relatively brisk 90-minute running time. However, it’s hard not to see it as a missed opportunity or as the lacklustre treatment of a fascinating real life case, and as such it’s tough to recommend actually seeking it out.
“uwantme2killhim?” lands shortly in UK cinemas via Entertainment One.
Andrew Douglas (director) / Mike Walden (screenplay)
CAST: Jamie Blackley … Mark
Toby Regbo … John
Joanne Froggatt … Detective Inspector Sarah Clayton
Liz White … Janet
Jaime Winstone … Rachel
Mark Womack … Mark’s Dad
Amy Wren … Zoey