Edinburgh International Film Festival

Tony (2009)

Starring: Peter Ferdinando, Ricky Grover, George Russo, Francis Pope, Neil Maskell, Lorenzo Camporese

Directed by: Gerard Johnson

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Peter Ferdinando as Tony

There are five words missing from the title of Tony: 'portrait of a serial killer'. But while Henry is a cold, cruel and nasty film, Tony follows the trend set by this year's Dead by Dawn in presenting us with an altogether more sympathetic monster.

With his slicked back bowl cut, pervy moustache and skinny, gangly limbs, poor old Tony is the sort of person who's never going to get on in life. Loosely based on Denis Nilson, he's exactly the kind of unassuming, mild-mannered man who has his neighbours throwing up their hands in surprise when he's dragged away in handcuffs as the drains clog with flesh.

But like all the best horror films (although I'd hesitate to label it that – it's more a blackly satirical mockumentary) the movie has an underlying political message, about the way society and the government treat lonely outsiders like Tony, a couple of spanners short of a full toolbox. One of the most painful, funny and sad moments of the film is when our antihero faces his nemesis, a crass, gum-chewing wideboy at the Jobcentre, who threatens to cut off his jobseekers' allowance while offering no form of support as all.

In its unflinching, judgment-free documentation of Tony's depressing day-to-day perambulations, the film is also a visual poem to the shitty parts of London you don't normally get to see at the cinema, and the tanning salons, run-down pubs, porn shops, brothels and cheap gay bars are a million miles away from the sanitised, Disney London of Richard Curtis, or even the mean streets of East End gangster flicks like The Long Good Friday.

Compelling, at times cringeworthy, nicely, unexploitatively gory and worryingly credible, Tony is an excellent film that carries a caution: be careful who you bully, because they might just bite back…

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