The “serial killer” film is one that is generally done quite well. Every now and then one will come along that changes the rules and stuns you. Tony is one of those films.
When I found Tony I kept bumping it down my watch list, subconsciously avoiding it. When I finally watched it I was not expecting much, just a standard romp into some psycho’s twisted mind and his random, motiveless or sexually-driven killing. I expected the bad guy to be a soulless monster, beyond redemption and incapable of humanity or emotion beyond wrath and contempt. I was wrong; Tony is none of these things.
The film resolves around, yep you guessed it, Tony (Peter Ferdinando). From the outset the film cultivates a deep loneliness and sorrow from both his everyday life and his fumbling attempts to reach out to people. Apparently a born victim, he endures abuse and suspicion from everyone he meets. When he “befriends” two drug addicts, he invites them to his flat despite their obvious contempt for him. These moments of desperation on his part are heartbreaking and uncomfortable to watch. So as the two druggies lie in his flat in a drug induced stupor something very delicate snaps inside Tony. He switches, suffocating one of them with a cold glaze in his eyes while the other sleeps, unsuspecting. It quickly becomes apparent that Tony is not as harmless as he first appears and that this certainly is not his first murder.
What follows is a deep journey into Tony’s life and psyche. We are forced to experience, in all their brutality, these callous acts of murder by a man who at times seems misunderstood and desperately lonely (even asking a prostitute how much she would charge for a cuddle). It would be so simple if he were merely an opportunist or “predator” but many of the violent outbursts are directed towards people who he feels have wronged him, no matter how trivial they may seem to us as sane individuals. This is highlighted beautifully by the director, Gerard Johnson, in an unsettling scene were he strangles an unfortunate man visiting about his lack of a television license who attempts to confiscate his set (80s action movies on video cassette are seemingly the only joy he derives from life).
Running alongside this bleak insight into Tony’s life is a side story about a young boy missing in the local area who’s brutish father had previously attacked Tony. Naturally he is the number one suspect and the two plot lines are weaved subtly until the strangely poignant climax when Tony is dangerously close to being found out and we discover the truth about the boy’s fate.
Tony is a tragic modern day tale of one of London’s invisible people. It acts as both cautionary and thought provoking. Maybe people like Tony really do exist, hidden in the London masses, striking out unseen and unnoticed for many years. This prospect is more terrifying than and ghoul that Hollywood can dream up.