He may just have hit the headlines by divorcing Miley Cyrus, but Liam Hemsworth is developing acting chops that should allow him the same stellar trajectory his brother Chris has. After a prominent role in the Hunger Games films, Hemsworth the younger takes the kind of leap that worked so well for another teen heart-throb Robert Pattinson in the Safdie brothers’ Good Time; as a scuzzy dealer from the New York diamond district, there’s also elements of The Safdie’s Uncut Gems here. Although Killerman isn’t quite as good as either Good Times or Uncut Gems, it’s set in a similarly downbeat, real-world universe, and fans of the crime genre should appreciate it’s B movie smarts.
Hemsworth plays Moe Diamond, a money launderer whose services are highly sought after. He strikes a deal by which he collects and deposits cash in small doses, hoping to avoid attention from the IRS and other parties. But when a delivery gets cancelled after the cash is collected and before it can be deposited, Diamond suddenly finds himself vulnerable. A tentative drug deal goes up in Diamond’s face, and during the following car chase, he experiences a severe concussion that seems to obliterate his sense of who he is. Confused and easily manipulated by unscrupulous others, Diamond has to figure his way out of a venal snake-pit of local gangsters and corrupt cops, but he’s got a secret of his own that even he may not be aware of.
Killerman also has a touch of Memento, although the story isn’t told with the kind of arty pizazz that Christopher Nolan doubled-down on. Instead, this is a straight-forward, yet twisty-turny thriller that delivers a solid 90 minutes of high-octane entertainment, with gory killings in street-wise fashion, and a brief but exciting car chase that leads to an impressively messy smash. The NYC locations, starting with Katz’s deli, are authentic, and even if the contrivances eventually move it away from Safdie territory, it’s decent fare.
Hemsworth is the name-above-the-title attraction here, and he’s got the star-power to hold the film together. He manages well with the tricky amnesia switch, but in his leather jacket and five-o-clock shadow, presents just the right kind of anti-hero for this kind of amoral world. There’s a few regrettable camera set-ups and some loose lines of dialogue, but it’s a promising film from writer/director Malik Bader; if you can’t wait to see what the Safdies have got in store, Killerman deserves points for serving up a similarly dark and dangerous urban nightmare.