Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
The cold-blooded dispatch of career rivals has become an essential corporate skill in this sardonic comedy thriller. Proving he hasn’t lost the edge that made him a counter-cultural hero in the 70s (Z, State of Siege), director Costa-Gavras plays murder for cool Hitchcockian suspense, daring us to collude with his middle-class assassin. Made redundant from his management job in the papermaking industry, Bruno (the ever-likeable José Garcia of Après vous) has been unemployed for over two years. His teenage son and daughter are moping over the family’s cancelled cable TV, and he’s humiliated. Then, without a word to a soul, he hits on a scheme. He cunningly identifies his competitors, then sets out to eliminate each one of them. Soon he’s incorporating body disposals and visits from the cops into his busy bourgeois existence alongside dinner with the kids, and relationship counselling. The script is based on a novel by American Donald Westlake. The wit of the adaptation extends to the sly detail of the satiric assault on corporate impersonality.
“A jet-black social comedy marbled with delectably handled close calls, The Ax puts the merciless world of downsizing, outsourcing and other capitalist trends on the chopping block… The clever script indicts the consequences of increasingly accepted business practices… the picture’s greatest resonance may be in its study of rationalization. Bruno is anything but a nutjob; methodical yet bumbling, unfortunate yet awfully lucky, his approach to recovering his status makes sense the same way putting shareholders ahead of employees makes sense.” — Lisa Nesselson, Variety