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You Can't Stop the Murders

2006-03-30 13:16


Life is good in West Village Australia (population: 350). The air is clean, the people are friendly, and the closest the local police come to fighting crime is issuing speeding fines. But Constable Gary Raymond still takes his job very seriously, even if his partner Constable Akmal is more interested in coming up with ideas for films, rather than keeping the peace. Then the headless corpse of a local biker is discovered just outside town, and the hapless cops suddenly have a murder investigation on their hands. When a construction worker, a sailor, a cowboy and an Indian are all murdered in quick succession, Gary begins to suspect that the crimes may be tied to 70s pop band The Village People - which means that he, or Akmal, must be next on the hit list.


In the mid 1990s Australian filmmakers gained a reputation for producing gritty, intelligent little comedies like Muriel's Wedding, The Castle and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Alas, You Can't Stop the Murders has little in common with those rough Aussie diamonds and much more in common with the schlock comedies of Leslie Nielsen and Pat Proft (of Naked Gun fame).

That doesn't mean You Can't Stop the Murders isn't funny - at times it's utterly hilarious. It's just an entirely different brand of comedy. Where its predecessors tended towards bitter-sweet irony and wry tragi-comedy, You Can't Stop the Murders gets its laughs with straightforward buffoonery and sight gags. The characters are, without exception, bumbling nitwits. From the local cops and townsfolk to the visiting Sydney detective and the unfortunate murder victims, the only thing that separates the characters is the severity of their ineptitude.

While watching the characters make idiots of themselves in a variety of creative ways is, at first, funny and even quite endearing, the experience eventually becomes wearing. You begin to long for a straight-guy to offset all the clowns, a foil to highlight the tension between silly and serious that is the driving force of all comedy.

The film's shortcoming stems directly from the creative team behind the project - a trio of out-of-work stand-up comedians, none of whom had ever written or directed a film before. What's more, they decided to cast the film entirely from their colleagues in the world of stand up comedy. In some ways this is a brilliant idea - what could be better than a comedy created entirely by comedians?

Of course these things are never as simple as they appear. For one thing, by peopling a film entirely with comics you run the risk of your cast competing with each other to be funnier, an ill You Can't Stop the Murders suffers from quite badly. Another complication is that writing and directing for the screen are very different disciplines from putting together a stand-up comedy set. While writer / director Anthony Mir has certainly risen to the challenge for his debut film, it still plays more like a series of loosely connected comedy skits, and less like a coherent feature film.

Mir's cause isn't helped by a decidedly flabby screenplay. A number of scenes are not only devoid of comedy but wholly unnecessary for plot advancement. Comedy is at its best when lean, and Mir and his fellow writers should have been more brutal in their final draft.

But by far the biggest disappointment in You Can't Stop the Murders is the waste of a great plot idea. Had the writers exploited the whodunit angle of the Village People murders and interwoven it with their comedy they would have had something truly exceptional. Instead, the murders become little more than empty devices - backdrops on which the comedy is projected. When the murderer is finally revealed the audience feels no satisfaction at all, since they haven't been included in the process of figuring out who he (or she) might be.

If you feel like some uncomplicated laughs, then You Can't Stop the Murders comes highly recommended. When the cast click they are brilliantly funny, and it's almost worth watching just for these brief snatches of hilarity. At the same time, if you feel like walking out halfway through, you can rest assured you won't be missing much.

- Alistair Fairweather

This quirky comedy about a town full of inept Aussies is an uneven mixture of very funny moments and very irritating filler.

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