Every job has its bad days; one merely endures, occasionally curses then chalks up whatever disaster occurs to experience and probably laughs in remembrance after enough healing time has passed. But in the case of hit men, a little “trouble at the office” can have deadly effects.
In Room 36, director/writer Jim Groom and his co-writers Tim Dennison and David Read have fashioned a deliciously-menacing film noir that, despite the over-reliance on split-second coincidence and a numerical slight of hand that—initially—puzzles and perplexes those on both sides of the screen, moves well, truly surprises and is magically populated by an ensemble-cast whose lives all intersect at the shoddy but oh-so-convenient Midlothian Hotel.
The predominantly black-and-white imagery of Read’s cinematography sets the timbre and tone from the opening hit man, Connor’s (Paul Herzberg who needs just another ounce of lovingly-callous to lift his contribution from very good to excellent) self-described penchant for cleaning up the gruesome details of another success—makes Mom proud. The sudden switch to colour, beautifully underscoring Connor’s current quarry, Helen Woods, MP (Portia Booroff manages her metamorphosis from mere government traitor to cut-throat killer with alarming ease) as she starts to call the shots, is a deft touch. Using sepia for murderous memories gives the copious amounts of blood an even more disturbing sheen.
Scott Benzie’s score is appropriately driving (if a tad too John Williams) for the search-and-chase sequences and slow-motion oozy as the bodies pile up (the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra’s upper strings make valiant attempts to soar into the stratosphere). The thin-reed jazzy saxophone is at one with the entry of the whore, replete with character-defining bubble gum—the last thing she’ll ever blow once she steps into the wrong 36 and fails to deliver the expected goods. Down the hall, a hirsute, fleshy, underwear-fetish salesman, Armstrong (from singing Rossini while he shaves—no fair guessing which opera!—to savouring his girth and girdle, Frank Scantori is superb), ends up with the wrong woman-of-the-night but meets his end with frenetic aplomb. The pop-chart track in the local pub is none other than “He’s a Killer.” Perhaps a little over the top, it would have done some of the patrons (the quick cutaways to an old man and his dog add editorial snap to this case-of-further-mistaken-identity moment: kudos to film editor, James Morgo) well to have compared the lyrics to the demeanour of the intruder with a briefcase.
Shooting through an aquarium as the mayhem continues is incongruously compelling. But without a doubt, the best shot of the production glues Connor’s and Woods’ ears to the cockroach-infested wall, desperately hoping for a telltale sound that will give one of the cretins the upper hand.
For sheer entertainment and the admiration of a labour of blood-drenched love, make a reservation to stay in Groom’s madcap world, but do check the assigned room number twice. JWR