Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Laugh Killer Laugh (dir by Kamal Ahmed)

(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR!  It’s taking a while but she’s definitely making some progress!  She recorded this 2015 thriller off of the El Rey network on May 9th!)

This is a strange one.

William Fosythe, character actor extraordinaire, plays Frank Stone.  Frank is a burglar who works for an infamous mobster named Tough Tony (Victor Colicchio).  As you can probably tell from his nickname, Tony’s tough but he still enjoys a good laugh.  Not Frank.  Frank never laughs.  He doesn’t even smile.  In a world of flamboyant and verbose gangsters, Frank is quiet and withdrawn.  He lives in a cramped apartment, withdrawn from the world.  At night, he is haunted by nightmares of his childhood.  He was raised in an orphanage where a sadistic headmaster (Tom Sizemore) regularly ordered his to never smile.  In the view of the headmaster, Frank had nothing to smile about and certainly no reason to ever laugh.

Then, Frank enrolls in a creative writing class.  His main reason for enrolling is that he’s falling in love with another student, Jackie (Bianca Hunter).  However, once he’s enrolled, Frank finally starts to express himself for the first time.  What the class doesn’t realize is that his dark and violent stories aren’t fiction.  Instead, Frank is just writing about his day-to-day life.  The class may be impressed but Tough Tony isn’t particularly happy that a bunch of strangers know all of his secrets.  Tough Tony’s solution is predictably brutal but he may be underestimating Frank, who has now discovered not only the joy of laughter but the joy of killing as well.

I have to admit that all of the Mafia stuff didn’t really interest me.  I’ve seen so many gangster movies that I could pretty much predict everything that was going to happen as far as Tough Tony was concerned.  Victor Colicchio did a good job and was properly loathsome in the role but, ultimately, he was just another self-amused gangster.

Far more interesting to me were the parts of the movie that involved the creative writing class.  I’ve taken a few creative writing classes and this film perfectly captured the experience.  I recognized almost everyone in that class.  There was the lonely woman who wrote stories that presented her as being both a seductive temptress and an innocent victim of a selfish lover.  There was the guy who, having read too much Raymond Carver, seemed to be obsessed with the idea that he could turn the mundane details of his everyday life into great art.  Even Frank Stone was a familiar type to me.  In every class, there’s always one guy (and it’s almost always a guy) whose writing is so nihilistic that you praise it because you’re scared he might kill you otherwise.  And then there was Ackley (Kevin Corrigan), the asshole who never read anything but showed up for every class so that he could tell everyone else that their work sucked.  Every class has an Ackley.  Even the supportive but somewhat wimpy instructor (played by Robert McNaughton) felt true to life.

Laugh Killer Laugh is an odd and uneven little movie and definitely not for everyone.  There are some serious pacing problems and some of the supporting performances aren’t as strong as you might want.  (Tom Sizemore, however, will scare the Hell out of you.)  That said, William Forsythe gives a wonderfully strange and ultimately sympathetic performance as Frank.  The film makes perfect use of Forsythe’s off-center persona and it’s almost worth watching just for that.

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