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Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) review - a darkly humorous Brit-flick

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Verdict: darkly funny British comedy is a pleasant surprise

Dead in a Week is certainly an unusual premise: after failing to commit suicide seven times, “10 if you count cries for help,” William (Aneurin Barnard) enlists the help of aging assassin Leslie (Tom Wilkinson) to do it for him. Complications arise when William begins to doubt whether he actually wants to die, and Leslie is adamant to fulfill his contract within the week no matter what. This bizarre summary doesn’t sound like it could successfully make an entire 90-minute movie, and yet, surprisingly, it does. 

As you would expect, the film is full of dark, dry humour: from William’s failed suicide attempts, to choosing the way he wants to die, to casually accepting his fate. Despite this, it never borders on being offensive. If you’ve suffered from depression, you will probably sympathise with William and often find yourself thinking “I really shouldn’t be laughing at this, but I am”. After William, a failed writer, has signed his death contract, he gets offered a meeting with a publisher; everyone can probably relate to this kind of irony, if not to such an extreme extent. 

As well as William, the film also follows the life of Leslie, who has to fill one final quota in order to keep his job or else face retirement. His home life is relatively normal, and the juxtaposition of Leslie’s family life to his job as a hitman is amusing to say the least. While his wife is worrying about winning an embroidery competition, Leslie is considering the best way to kill someone.

Leslie’s boss, Harvey, is played by Christopher Eccleston, who is almost unrecognisable to those of us who know him from his days in Doctor Who. He nails the gangster-like voice so well that I began questioning if I was actually watching the same actor. The confrontation scenes between him and Leslie have the look of a crime thriller but the dialogue of a comedy, making for an interesting dynamic. 

There’s also a hint of romance when Ellie, interested in turning William’s work into a book, comes into his life. Again, this could’ve gone terribly wrong - not wanting to die anymore because you’ve fallen in love? So cliché. Yet this isn’t the focus of the movie, and it doesn’t become overwhelmingly romantic.

Perhaps some people may think the subject matter inappropriate; maybe you have to have suffered from depression to be able to appreciate the irony and humour. The film could have easily gone into cheesy or cringe-worthy territory, but it manages to avoid that and still keep an overall suitably serious tone.

With good performances all round, the film nails the approach it was aiming for: sombre, but still humorous, with a nice amount of action too. Overall, a very British comedy that was a pleasant surprise.

Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) is in cinemas on November 16th.

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