In the exquisitely offbeat crime caper "Laugh Killer Laugh," William Forsythe plays Frank Stone, a ruthless jewel thief known for offing his accomplices.
Frank's favorite pastimes include sharpening knives, polishing guns, playing organs (the musical rather than the vital kind) and heeding pep talks from the voice inside his head that belongs to the physically and sexually abusive headmaster (Tom Sizemore) at the orphanage of his formative years.
After a random passerby, Jackie (Bianca Hunter), mistakes him for a classmate, Frank enrolls in a creative writing class under a nom de plume and begins banging his autobiographical criminal exploits out on a typewriter. Jackie is drawn to Frank's stories as escapist pulp fiction, but she doesn't care to confront them as weighty biographical factoids.
The headmaster's soliloquies on abuse that punctuate the film are at once cringeworthy, uncomfortably hilarious and incredibly tragic. They allow viewers a peek at the demons that have scarred Frank for life and remained in the recesses of his psyche.
Self-discovery through artistic expression is often trite, but Frank's rehabilitation and transformation readily win us over when we're least expecting it.
"Laugh Killer Laugh."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.