Written, directed and lead by Robbie Walsh, two days in the lives of a pair of hitmen as they work their way through a list of targets. Also starring: David Alexander, Damien Dempsey, Cathal Pendred, Jenny Dixon, Chris Fields, Patrick Murpy, John Redmond, Robert Quigley and more.
S.P.L.I.T. sells itself as The Office meets The Sopranos and it actually manages to establish that blend of tones very quickly. The comedy comes through subtly, it’s so casually mixed into the conversation that you might even miss it, unfortunately its effect is lessened slightly by the fairly monotone cadence of its lead stars so it’s easy for the comedy to slip by. It has a typical lad or old fashioned masculinity style, the leads have two classic personality types, one who rushes in without thinking and one who’s strong headed with old fashioned values. They’re not particularly original character but given their murderous line of work, it fits in with the story. It’s a solid opening scene, introducing the mockumentary format, its leads, its sense of humour and their lethal careers but unfortunately while the physical set up stays primarily the same throughout, the comedy tends to get lost along the way.
There are a few infrequent moments when the humour sneaks back in as the film expands its horizons and introduces some new faces but it’s too inconsistent. Outside of the humour, its next priority is actually committing hits upon their targets, as with any action in film it relies on choreography, stunts and effects but that’s something this film really struggles with. When attempting to portray gun play, it’s often mistimed or avoids any physical effects with errant camera angles which is fine in moderation but it lacks a strong impression, the violent side of things would have worked really well with its tone, if they’d added a little gore. The mockumentary choice does add a little bit of a different direction than every other hitman story but it wasn’t ideal to throw in the rather irritating documentarians who feel somewhat biased and too involved with the subjects.
The story itself works well enough for what they’re aiming at but it needs more variety to really sell it and the dialogue lacks originality, which is not a huge issue with the exception of when it wanders into the realm of offensive. There are a number of films that can handle use of the n-word, they’re typically weighty and made by legendary directors who are making a statement by including it but when a film like this, led by two white guys attempts it, it just comes across as off-putting and coming at about the half-way mark of the film, it sets things down a bad road that doesn’t turn around. It’s a classic problem that’s been seen across film and television of portraying people who lack common sense or have impulse control issues as cold, calculated killers when the two things just don’t compute, you can’t do sloppy work and not get caught, it’s only logical. Their personalities feel constructed of the classic archetypes and missing any rounding out with individuality or cohesion, for instance having a character who plays like he has respect for women but is also fine with dragging one around by her hair.
S.P.L.I.T. sticks too much to its guns and doesn’t branch out enough to make a consistently captivating story, it’s slightly repetitive and needed more of a range of content to make into a full feature. It starts out on the right foot then stumbles towards the end with little surprises in store. There are moments where it goes too far and doesn’t have the weight to pull it off, it’s a rare case where playing it safe actually would have been more interesting. It’s a shame that it couldn’t keep that initial comedy going because without it, it simply doesn’t have enough personality or originality, too see its style through. It’s more of a step in the right direction than director and star Walsh’s other feature Eden but there’s still progress to be made.