DEAD IN A WEEK (OR YOUR MONEY BACK) follows the sad life of William (Aneurin Barnard, the Welsh actor from DUNKIRK), a failed writer who has tried to take his life 9 times without much success. These attempts are sad, not because they failed but because they are shown briefly on screen as attempts at comedy but simply failing at getting any laughs. The hanging results in ceiling breakage. The electrocution leads to a blackout. Yes, not funny. And neither is the rest of the film. The premise might have looked good on paper but what transpires is only mildly funny comedy at best and a whole lot of predictable fare.
William hires a contract killer who needs him to be his last killing to make his quota. The contract killer, Leslie (Tom Wilkinson) gives William his calling card at the bridge where he attempt his 10th suicide. William jumps off but no prizes in guessing that he lands on a passing boat below. William signs a contract for his own death. The predictable catch is that he falls in love and his next book looks like a success. So, he now wants to live. But the killer is not going to stop what he is paid to do.
The worst thing about the film is when it attempts to offer life lessons advice to the audience. The speech by William just before he is about to be shot is something everyone could do without. The contract killer, Leslie is supposed to be super efficient so the scenes in which he shoots and keeps missing William is totally unbelievable. The running joke of Leslie’s wife supporting her husband in his job (“Maybe this will help”, she tells him at one point handing him a kitchen knife, sending him off to work) outstays its welcome.
Punch lines like: “Killing is the only thing I live for,” as uttered by the hit man is typically expected from a film like this. Or “I am an assassin, that is what I do, that is what I am.” The script also has to resort to foul language, a sure sign of desperation. The Ennio Morricone-type soundtrack (Clint Eastwood used to play similar lone ‘Man with no Name’ killers) is an obvious choice for music.
The Aki Kaurismaki film I HIRED A CONTRACT KILLER, by inevitable comparison, that treaded similar territory is more effective on a different level. Kaurismaki’s film was deadpan comedy which means that one could watch the weirdly funny film and still not laugh. The film was depressing but I have seen it three times. The closing credits have the cheek to claim that DEAD IN A WEEK is based on an original idea by writer/director Tom Edmunds. Both films has the protagonist change his kind and both have them falling in love. CONTRACT KILLER had him fall in love with a flower girl with added a nice touch.
The film has an odd rather original ending that does not qualify as a Hollywood ending. Unfortunately it makes no sense at all.