2011 / Director. Peter Himmelstein.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE KEY MAN is an odd retro-centric thriller that plays its cards very close to its chest. It’s a story about a gullible straight guy being caught up in an elaborate con where the con itself is never actually explored.
Jack Davenport plays a David Frost-looking insurance broker who feeds into the hands of two crooks played by Hugo Weaving and Brian Cox. They exploit his desperate financial stresses and offer him a pivotal role in a key man policy. Such a policy means that should one of the key holders die, the company involved would be protected and compensated financially. It is a highly risky venture for someone to be part of but the benefits, should it be legitimate, are huge.
The film’s biggest flaw is that the scam itself is ambiguous. We know that there’s shifty stuff going on and that the central character is being duped, but the film is never quite clear about how it all works and exactly what is going on. A huge suspension of disbelief is required for us to fully buy into the whole charade, but that is made easy by the film’s very cool and ultra quirky 1970’s production design.
As though lifted directly out of the 70s, THE KEY MAN comes loaded with a funky exploitation aesthetic. From a bass-loaded funk soundtrack to excessive split screen editing and a ridiculously camp costume design. It is a throwback film that puts its emphasis on style rather than substance. I honestly didn’t care much about the lack of substance when I was confronted with such a vibrant and deliberately mischievous line up of set-ups; each delivered by talent of the highest order. Hugo Weaving, Brian Cox and Jack Davenport are all fantastic and they really sink their teeth into the whole retro thing (Cox wears his perm like a legend). Judy Greer also lends some strong support as the ever-suffering wife.
THEY KEY MAN is bound to have its detractors, however it is a film that deserves its place alongside films such as THE SPANISH PRISONER and THE GRIFTERS and it hits its mark far more accurately than AMERICAN HUSTLE did.