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Movie review: ‘Sightseers'

Posted 6:48am on Friday, May. 17, 2013

Unrated (adult themes); 89 min.

Murder is a funny thing that happens in Ben Wheatley movies, though it has never been droller, drier or deadlier than in Sightseers, the British filmmaker’s latest comic assault.

He had help.

Outre improv team Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who star in the film, spent a few years developing a stand-up act about a couple of quirky lovebirds named Tina and Chris, the nerds whose mood swings trigger Sightseers’ mayhem.

It all begins with a scream. That’s a perfect setup, since much of the film sends up the way ordinary irritations can get under your skin.

Like us, Tina (Lowe) is forced to listen. She is a bit of a frump. Thirtyish, she’s still living with her mum (Eileen Davies), who is mourning the death of Poppy, the terrier whose photos line the walls and whose spirit will linger over the film.

It’s Mum’s version of a guilt trip to stop her daughter from leaving on a road trip with her new boyfriend, Chris (Oram). He’s planned a British Midlands holiday in his classic travel trailer, an Abbey Oxford Caravan.

The cinematography retains the organic vibe of the director’s earlier films, but is slightly less hand-held and shaky.

Also, the visual choices are more sharply defined. For instance, the way an ice cream wrapper that starts everything is so carelessly discarded on a tour bus that it threatens to derail their holiday mood.

Tina considers cutting the trip short when an angry Chris just can’t let the wrapper incident go. But after he disposes of the litterer — a Caravan can do some serious bodily damage — Tina barely blinks an eye. In a heartbeat, this ecocentric Bonnie and Clyde are off and running, eliminating various blights along the way.

As in any romantic comedy, the movie’s success rests with the relationship, and theirs is about as wickedly funny as they come. It begins with that awkward first time — not sex, but murder. Before long, they are squabbling over strategy and who qualifies for their hit list. There is an ease in all the sustained awkwardness, because they may be killers but they never stop being nerds.

Exclusive: Landmark Magnolia, Dallas

— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

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