Fate hasn't exactly been kind to Percival Wills (Leon Cain) or Steven Ray (Steve Mouzakis), two lost souls mired in despair who meet and befriend each other in The Suicide Theory, a razor-dark buddy dramedy from Australian director Dru Brown.
Percival lost his will to live three years earlier when his lover, Chris, was savagely murdered. His depression and feelings of worthlessness reach an all-time nadir when he comes to learn from hard experience that he's such a failure, he can't even kill himself properly.
Not that he hasn't tried: His face is zigzagged by deep scars from the time he jumped off a roof, and there's an ugly mark under his chin from the time he tried to eat a bullet.
Steven is a different kind of animal.
He also has lost a loved one. His pregnant wife, Annie (Zoe de Plevitz), was killed by a hit-and-run driver while the couple were crossing the street.
Steven, though, isn't prone to violence against himself. An extrovert in every way, he takes out his self-hatred on others. (In the film's opening scene, he pulverizes a guy's face with a tub of ice cream.) It makes him ideally suited for his career choice: hit man for hire.
The Suicide Theory, which is shot with wonderful neo-noir touches, has a truly wicked sense of humor. Ever since Annie's death, Steven has been unable to cross the street, suffering from panic attacks and seizures whenever he gets close to the curb. The only way he can get to the other side is to hire a cab.
Percival and Steven were made for each other. As the suicidal bloke tells the homicidal one, they were fated to meet. (They do so when Percival lands on top of Steven's cab one late night in yet another suicide attempt.)
As one would expect, Percival hires Steven to kill him. And the latter tries very hard to fulfill the contract in a series of truly hilarious - and very bloody - attempts. Each time they think the job is done, Percival wakes up in the hospital to the sounds of a parade of astonished doctors telling him how lucky he is to be alive.
Each failed attempt leaves Percival a little more disfigured (especially the time he's shot in the face), but it also draws the two men closer in a strange kind of intimacy.
Despite its ingenious structure and clever plot twists, Brown's film tries a little too hard to pull together its various story lines into a grand pattern that suggests everything that happens to our antiheroes has been predestined. Their lives, it seems, have been inextricably intertwined from the start.
Its faults aside, The Suicide Theory is a truly touching story about our need for human contact. It's strange, goofy, surreal, and deeply gratifying.