Slice is one of those films that very nearly defies review. A serial killer thriller cut from the same cloth as Se7en (can we move past this please?), with a dash of Ms 45 and Baise-moi thrown in for good measure, the central murderer weaves a tangled web of personal vendettas, righteous indignation and red herrings while offing some really ‘deserving’ types. If you’ve seen the aforementioned movies, you’ll clue in pretty quickly that there’s a sex crime angle to the proceedings, but Slice sees fit to work in some homophobia and/or homosexual panic too. Then again, maybe that’s a clever or semi-satirical plot device. Ahem. It’s truly hard to tell and that detracts from the film’s overall shallow effectiveness and the surprise ending any more information would give away.
Tai and Nut grow up in rural Thailand, all the while Tai doing his damnedest to fit in with the cool kids, usually at Nut’s expense. Nut is the local ‘fag’, he has no friends, he’s lonely, and just about every adult male he encounters abuses him in some way. The only bright light in his miserable life is his budding friendship with Tai. After a hideous experience with Nut’s pervy father — and a suitably disorienting chase through a pitch-black cornfield — Tai and Nut run away to the big city. But the hits just keep on coming! The cowardly Tai, ultimately, can’t take Nut’s neediness and sells him into sexual slavery. I don’t know about you, but I’d be out for some former best friend revenge too.
We see most of this in flashback, as the adult and now simply spineless Tai (an Aaron Kwok-ish Arak Amornsupasiri) gets sprung from prison to find a serial killer — envisioned as Red Riding Hood on meth who stuffs his victims in red suitcases – on the loose. The killer is hunting foreigners looking for sex. Or maybe corrupt politicians. Or maybe diva pop stars. There’s no real mystery after the first couple of murders and Tai’s explanation of his memories to crusty veteran cop Papa Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich, sporting a kickin’ Koizumi Junichiro fright wig hair-do). Chin is also Tai’s ‘handler’, the guy who brought him onto the force, screwed him over and landed him in jail. Tai is convinced that doing Chin’s dirty work on the inside will be his fast track to redemption. There are also hints of a love triangle; Chin has a thing for Tai’s girlfriend Noi (Jessica Pasaphan), who clearly doesn’t trust him.
There’s a lot in Slice that could have made the film a cutting genre piece about police corruption, the rot outside urban centres, surviving sexual violence, Thailand’s sex trade, boyhood affection or any combination thereof. But writer-director Kongkiat Komesiri leans to the sensational, reaching for that Big Reveal that compels jaws to drop. Admittedly, the big twist did in fact come as a surprise — largely because the violence, abject misery and tortures young Nut endures are distracting. It’s no stretch to believe Tai would assume Nut was out for revenge. It’s a relatively organic leap that doesn’t stretch the narrative to the breaking point or feel forced. The final dots are connected in a very Usual Suspects kind of way — lots of short snippets of what we already saw with a new perspective while Tai reels at his realisations. Nonetheless Komesiri keeps it all very pop psychology and does little to explore Nut’s mindset, basically holding up The Gay as the root of all Tai and Nut’s problems. Evidently the local bullies were smart to keep a wary eye on the queer.
But there’s no denying it works as a gruesome genre thriller, and ultimately Slice has a strong midnight movie vibe about it that Thai cinema has spent the last decade perfecting. Oodles of gritty violence, a typically saturated neon palette and lots of grainy imagery attest to that. Though why films still insist on using the degraded taped message cliché (you know, the ones batshit killers always send to reporters/cops/targets) when most video recordings are now digital is beyond me. The cornfield chase and a prison shower stabbing are among the standout set piece moments, but nothing beats the junkyard face-off where Chin takes it on the, er, chin. You have to see it to believe it.