The Next Kill is just bizarre and wild enough to appreciate the freewheeling weirdness of the presentation.
Published on January 26, 2023
Rating 3 /5
Sometimes there’s a budgeted film with so much energy and daringness that you’re willing to look past the basic script and the ho-hum acting. The Next Kill has so much effort squeezed into making an eccentric, absurd, and vibrant action picture that it’s surprising how it kept me engaged. While it never rises from its ranks of looking like a low-budget picture, and the animation gimmick doesn’t work, the vision here is surprisingly straightforward: I enjoyed the picture, even when it rarely sticks its landing.
The premise is a simple excuse for chases, fight scenes, and violence. A serial killer has been broken out of prison by a devious supervillain who instructs the freed killer to take out a list of individuals. It was refreshing that the killer doesn’t look like the average serial killer by appearing with long hair and, later, a large hat. He has the look of Slash, which is fine by me. Having a rampaging, knife-wielding Slash murdering his way through a Texas city is a pretty unique idea. Tracking down this killer is an aged Texas Ranger who comes out of retirement to save the day. Unfortunately, to find the killer, he’ll have to delve into a city overflowing with chaos in its criminal underworld, where masked gangsters roam the streets.
The film has been branded as an animated film for adopting a rotoscope filter on top of its live-action filter. It’s less so a rotoscoping film in the vain of the experimentation in Linklater’s films such as Waking Life and Apollo 10½. That being said, it does have a bit of an experimental side for relying on the computer to do most of the work. The problem is that there’s an uneven nature to how the film stages this kind of animation. For example, during scenes with action shots or an elaborate location that couldn’t be shot for live-action, the backgrounds will have a bold nature that further engrains a comic book style. This includes the prison break scene in which the mysterious releaser of the killer is framed within a green void of torn worlds. However, the many city scenes that don’t call for stylish backgrounds look like crisp and clean spots for shooting, taking you out of the picture a bit. There’s this jarring effect present, as though Sin City decided to shoot a handful of scenes in an evenly lit room without much-set design.
While the animation gimmick wears off fast, the direction is undoubtedly zippy enough to appreciate. The editing is fine-tuned enough to make action scenes feel full of life but are still easy to read. There’s a particularly great shot where a chase breaks out in an apartment building. A knife comes into the frame as the camera pans, the background changes color, and we focus on the knife-wielding gangster. It’s a pretty dynamic shot, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Despite its budget, the film also doesn’t skimp on the violence, featuring plenty of close-ups of knives going into skin and bullets piercing bodies, having that exact wild nature of an anime showing off the internal damage of a fight.
In what is sure to be the biggest surprise of the film, there are some surprise cameos in a few roles of the targets for the killer. This includes Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman, Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knolls, and, easily the best, legendary actor James Hong shows up to take the fight to some street punks. Hong is so great in this film it makes sense that he’s used for more than a few scenes featuring how easily he can keep up with this young cast and still whoop butt.
The Next Kill is just bizarre and wild enough to appreciate the freewheeling weirdness of the presentation. It has the same drive as Snatch, a film that relies more on the allure of its speed than the coherence of its all-over-the-place story. That’s an approach you don’t see from many low-budget filmmakers who set their sights low. These filmmakers were shooting for something big, and it’s impressive how close they came to making a surreal trip of action and violence with a comic book style.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.