Anonymous Killers has a lot to unpack in its less than 2-hour runtime, and for the most part, it succeeds most admirably. Each person gets (roughly) equally time to tell their tale of woe, and they are all rather well-rounded. The movie actually starts with each person committing a heinous act and getting kidnapped by Emaramus. So, straight out of the gate, the viewer is already off-put by these characters. Intrigued to be sure, but definitely not rooting for anyone. However, as Amadu, Lucia, Romero, Marlene, and Curtis make their case and tell their history, the whip-smart screenplay turns the tables and heavily invests the audience. Therefore, they don’t want any person to die, as their actions are wrong, but their reasons are not always.
Of course, one, or several, must perish. While one of the people remaining is hardly a surprise, the other(s) is and makes for a thrilling denouement. While most of the time, the direction is quite vivid and strong, with the stark violence and emotional journey of the characters balanced well, the voting sequence is confusingly edited. It jumps from one person in a chair to the next, going from voting to this person to another, without much sense. Emaramus is talking to Curtis about his constant votes for life, but then he’s somehow talking to Marlene, attempting to change the rules on her. It’s very chaotic, which is odd given how well-paced, exciting, and impressive the rest of Anonymous Killers is. It certainly helps that the cast is game for every action beat and vulnerable moment the movie throws at them. Grounding their characters, and the story, nicely.
“While it is not quite perfect, it is damn important.”
Then there’s the subtext of the story. Emaramus acts as judge, jury, and executioner, but who appointed him such? Why is he the harbinger of moral standing, especially when it is made clear that he enjoys the torture and killing he inflicts upon these people? Much like in a courtroom, where a judge can be an appointed position, this person holds so much power over one’s future it is almost unfair, even when they are elected (which can be the case, depending).
The thriller also hones in on societal factors that led everyone to kill that first time. Seeing such trauma and bloodshed led Amadu down the path of murder for hire. Being raped, and the physical, internal damage of such a horrible act, sees everyone in Marlene’s life, even those she thought she could trust, to turn on her. Why are victims so often blamed? Just because a woman is rich and white, she can frame a minority for a crime, out of jealousy, and get away with? Privilege is alive and well, and there is something a bit gratifying about seeing such people (who absolutely look down on Lucia’s profession, despite using it themselves) getting their comeuppance.
Odd editing aside, Anonymous Killers moves well, with exciting action and engaging drama. The cast is uniformly excellent, as is the music by Pancho Burgos-Goizueta. But what truly makes A.R. Hilton’s movie such a searing film is its censuring of the U.S. justice system, as it pokes holes at the hypocrisy and privilege afforded to those in power. While it is not quite perfect, it is damn important.
"…hones in on societal factors that led everyone to kill that first time."