Kongkiat Khomsiri, Director. 99 Minutes.
On the surface, the plot of Slice is a fairly straight forward one. A serial killer is murdering people around Thailand, mutilating their bodies and dumping them in red suitcases around the country. Public pressure is mounting and when the Prime Minister's son becomes a victim, it is ordered that drastic actions be taken to catch the killer. Papa Chin, the lead police officer in charge of the case is given 15 days to solve the case or else. Frustrated, and having no leads of his own, he follows the advice of a police psychiatrist who reminds him about an inmate who claims that the murders sound exactly like the work of someone the inmate knew from his childhood. The inmate, a tattooed hitman named Tai, is granted a conditional release: If he can find the killer before the deadline, he gets to keep release and have his prison record wiped clean. Tai then sets out to find what has become of his childhood friend and gain his freedom. As Tai begins to learn more about the victims in the course of his investigation and how they relate to his friend, the story gets deeper, darker, and more twisted.
The story told in Slice can basically be divided into two parts. The primary part being about Tai pursuing the killer, while being monitored by the police. The second part focuses more on Tai's childhood and that of the kids he grew up with. This added dimension of story takes us deeper into Tai's world and explains a lot of the motivations behind the killer's brutal behavior. In this regard, the film shifts from being a straight forward thriller to being a touching story about friendship, betrayal, guilt, and the harsh trials of childhood in a very unkind world.
There is a lot of moral ambiguity in the characters portrayed in the film. From the onset, the protagonist character of Tai is shown to murder another inmate in prison who considers him a friend. Tai does not enjoy this and is clearly remorseful, but is acting on orders from his boss sending word from outside the prison. The lack of a clear definition of who is good and who is bad, morally speaking, permeates throughout most of the characters in the film. I wouldn't consider the film to be bitterly nihilistic, but there are a lot of selfish characters in it working towards their own goals.
This film is certainly disturbing at times and not for everyone. It takes viewers to some dark places, and lets us know right from the beginning that it is going to. The first victim that we see is an English speaking scumbag who keeps a nude Thai boy on a leash in his hotel room. Although the film does not portray things as graphically as, say a certain notorious film named after a country in Eastern Europe, it is graphic enough to disturb some viewers. While it keeps a sleazy atmosphere for most of the film, thankfully, Slice exercises a little bit more restraint, to its benefit, but I would be remiss not to give a bit of warning in that regard.
I really enjoyed the use of color in this film. One of the first things to catch the viewer's eye is the bright red raincoat worn by the killer in the opening scene and the vicious murder that takes place after. Whenever we see the killer, the world is always very brightly colored, in blues and reds. This immediately brings to mind images of Dario Argento's Inferno. I can't possibly imagine that the director, Kongkiat Khomsiri isn't a fan of Inferno after seeing this film. In fact, parts of the film sometimes have a giallo feel to them, even though I wouldn't consider the film itself to be one.
Slice is the fourth film directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri, who has previously directed Art of the Devil 2, Chaiya, and Long Khong 2. He has written another three films as well. I have seen none of his previous work and have been only vaguely curious to see the Art of the Devil films. After seeing this film, I definitely want to seek out more of his work. It is, by far, the best film from Thailand that I personally have seen. (I should note that I haven't seen but a handful of Thai films, I'm not trying to make the statement here that this is the best film that Thailand has ever produced.)
The performances in the film are solid, even those of the children that we see in the flashbacks to Tai's childhood. From what little information I could find on IMDb, none of the actors in the film have had much experience except for Chatchai Plengpanich, who plays the police officer, Papa Chin. Plengpanich has been in a lot of Thai soap operas and films, including Hit Man File, and Bangkok Robbery. The character of Tai, is competently portrayed by Arak Amornsupasiri, who has only been in two other films prior to this, Body and Best of Times.
I highly recommend this film to those who aren't offended by the disturbing aspects of it. It's an enjoyable watch with some major twists that really got my attention. I'd like for others to see it and I'd like to know what they thought of it. I do want to give a word of warning about spoilers. I tried very hard not to post spoilers in this review beyond what's shown in the first five minutes of film, but I have seen other reviews online, particularly at IMDb and a few blogs that hint at or blatantly give away major spoilers that I would be angry if they had been ruined for me. I don't want be so arrogant as to say that my review is the only one that you should read before watching, but I would like readers to have the best viewing experience possible when watching it and not have it spoiled for them.
You can view the Slice trailer: (Sorry, no subs)
Thanks for reading, and comments are always welcome! =)