Director; Carter Ferguson
Writer; Bryan Larkin Starring; Bryan Larkin, Julian Gaertner
A contract killer still haunted by the murder of his lover by The Triads, is sent back to where it all happened, the city of Hong Kong to carry out an assignment with a cocksure young gun. However the plans are soon derailed as the two men start to question the motives behind their work. The dynamic duo of writer/star Bryan Larkin with fight coordinator / director Carter Ferguson have teamed up and brought together the best elements of the gritty Hong Kong thriller and American film noir to create a dark and gripping existential story. There is certainly plenty of style that include some clever cinematography revealing both the beauty and moody side of Hong Kong providing the perfect backdrop for Larkin’s substance laden script. His principle character known only as The Contractor, is the antithesis of the villainous cold blooded killer or the assassin with a heart of gold rather one not so much with a conscience (although we learn that he has some) but humanity haunted by the brutal murder of a mark with whom he fell in love. Adding more meat to the bones of what I would call this 'action noir' is Gaertner's cocky 'Young Gun', a killer whose surprising naivety provides the stark contrast to the more seasoned and troubled veteran.
Carter's penchant for style really comes into its own when depicting the contractor's penetrating grief inter cutting present day scenes with quickly edited flashbacks. Add in Larkin's amazing performance with his character fliting from his reliving that night to his present day, and you have some of the most powerful scenes committed to film. In quick flashes we see the life slowly die in the contractor's eyes to being almost emotionless, even when he's trying to convince his young compatriot of the dangers this line of work presents. This debate proves to be a dramatic examination of the crippling power of grief and loss, so powerful you wonder what exactly motivates the contractor to keep going, after all we soon learn his singular mission of hunting down those who
deserve to die proves might not to be as straightforward. The existential two way of conscience and empathy between Larkin’s embittered contractor and Gaertners cocky young gun - their screen presence invoking the similar relationship between Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent from The Mechanic - makes for compelling viewing so much so that you could happily watch them talk for hours, maybe even join in. Of course it's not all darkness and tension, with enough humour laden moments such as the elevator hit at the beginning, and Larkin's at times amusing narration adding the right amount of brevity. 'Dead End' is very much a thinking man’s ‘action noir’ balancing plenty of style with thought provoking substance. The story of loss and purpose is wrapped in noir style cinematography, storytelling complete with Larkin's booming narration, and carried by the film's thumping soundtrack by Joel S Silver who was clearly channelling his inner Brad Fiedel - the score has a 'Terminator-esque' sound. At its core though it is the performances of Bryan Larkin and Gaertner that make the film even more watchable, both oozing so much presence and chemistry they practically fill the scenes. Very few films are a must watch but 'Dead End easily fits into that category. Bring on the second and third instalments.