Two hitmen – Pinner, a cynical middle-aged veteran and Cully, a young novice – are sent to murder a former associate of their boss. As they wait for their target to come home, they tell stories to pass the time, but when they discover a sacrificial altar they realise all is not as it seems. As they descend into the darkness, they must face the sum of all their fears and the most terrifying evil they could have ever imagined.
“The Devil’s Business” caught my attention right away. I’m not sure what it is, but I tend to love films that base their premise on the discovery that a “crime boss” or like-character who ends up being the devil incarnate (or associated for that matter, in this case). Maybe I just never got enough of the film the “Devil’s Advocate” out of my system. Certainly it’s not a new concept, just one that we tend to revisit time to time. This UK based film is not your usual action-packed creation. It begins with 2 hired gun hit men assigned to killing off a past business associate (for their employer Bruno).
Pinner (Billy Clarke) and Cully (Jack Gordon) have arrived with one goal in mind. To take out a man by the name of Kist (Jonathan Hansler). Though when they arrive they find themselves waiting it out for a duration until he returns home. This interchange has its dark comedic sense to it that finds the 2 of them arguing quite a bit in an ongoing monologue of sorts. You have the new kid and the old veteran talking back and forth as they await their kill. They happen to also notice that the house is bit creepy with a few odd place settings to peak their curiosity. As they await Kist who they believe is at the opera, they discover a few things about themselves in the process.
As viewers, we learn about their past and how they “really” feel about taking on a black arts practitioner. In between waiting and tackling the task, Pinner stays in close contact with his employer boss Bruno (Harry Miller) who is also hiding something from the 2 of them. As he simply puts it, “he has something very important to me” (or great value). I don’t think it takes much effort to recognize this thru the events that flow that he is talking about his “soul”. Though still it’s never entirely phrased that way just to keep ya slightly off track.
Sean Hogan has created a UK feature that doesn’t need much to do what it came for. This is this inevitable buildup of awaiting Kist who per the movie title, we assume to be the devil. We also can’t help but feel like we are awaiting the film to pick up with his arrival. All the while there is a creepiness to the whole ordeal that comes in the simple aspect of the wait. The film has been described as a bit of a “slow burn”, which in this case is a spot on description.
When Kist does arrive, let’s say that things don’t go exactly as planned culminating in his taunting of the 2 and educating Pinner a bit about the nature of the universe. This 3rd act is such a great exchange with all the appropriate twists to carry it thru, that I was an instant fan upon completion. I found it quite hard to review the film without really pointing out the climax and its various parts but for the sake of “not giving full disclosure” let’s just say you should add this to your viewing list.
I will mention that it does have a bit of slow start with the whole film being mostly centered in the living room. From here we are left to the discussion between Pinner and Cully thru most of the movie. This, while important to the essential character build of the 2 hit men, escalates in a great way when they finally encounter Kist. Billy Clarke provides the a solid performance taking on the role of the wiser more experienced player of the group. We even get the sense that despite working for Bruno, he is much more in tune with the nature of the “business” whether someones lackey or not. His reaction remains unphased up until the metaphysical nature of the whole ordeal becomes even beyond his self controlling demeanor.
“The Devil’s Business” is quite simply a brilliant piece of cinema. It’s story remains compact and location centered but still has all the power of say a “Mr. Frost” film (for comparison). This UK originated film is a knock out achievement from newcomer Sean Hogan. Sean Hogan you might remember for his contribution for the film “Little Deaths”, another great movie to check out.
Bonus Features include:
Brand new transfer from film negative;
Interview with critic Roberto Curti;
Justin Harries of Filmbar 70
on Italian genre cinema;