“Congratulations! You just signed your own death warrant. If you’re not dead within a week you get your money back.” So begins the business deal between unpublished writer William Morrison (Aneurin Barnard) and Leslie O’Neill (Tom Wilkinson), the man he has just hired to kill him. “You seem like a decent man. I’m very happy to kill you.” That exchange sets the tone for what is to come in this dark comedy from writer-director Tom Edmunds.
The story of the benevolent hitman who only kills those who want to die is quite simple but there’s a twist. We learn more about the characters.
Leslie is an aging contract killer afraid he’ll be terminated from by the British Guild of Assassins if he doesn’t keep his quota up.
William is obsessed by death and plagued by questions—What’s the point? Why am I here? What am I contributing?—but starts to see some light at the end of the tunnel when he meets Ellie (Freya Mavor), a book editor with an interest in his book.
Will William go through with the planned assassination or will he try and get out of the ironclad contract?
“Dead in a Week” has a low-key but pitch black tone. The farcical, occasionally over-the-top treatment Edmunds applies to death and dying is tempered somewhat by Wilkinson’s performance as the genial but deadly Leslie. Ultimately the movie isn’t about the suicidal writer but the broader story of a man forced into retirement before he wants to go. “Retirement,” he moans. “It’s the start of the end of our lives.” He’s the most compelling character and as the movie finds itself drawn to cliché it is Wilkinson that keeps us interested.