Over the last several years the BBC have been making a series of Comedy Shorts which sometimes only air online though BBC3 often give them a showing as well, if that’s not one and the same thing these days now the channel isn’t available on tv. This is the second that Nick Helm has made after 2015’s Elephant which we’ll cover sooner rather than later, and sees Helm take on the roll of Sam who heads to a boxing gym and tells his disbelieving trainer that “He wants to be a killing machine”.
Helm is a comedian I’m extremely fond of and live he can be an unpredictable loose cannon who will make you laugh until it hurts, and then carry on until you worry for your health. But while quite charming and extremely likeable “The Killing Machine” isn’t exactly packed with laughs, it’s the kind of comedy that has a good few jokes in it but not an extreme amount so you won’t be questioning whether you’ll survive past the end credits. Which is probably a good thing, at least if you have a fondness for breathing.
I did find myself wishing it was slightly more amusing though, despite having a good few moments where Helm mocks his own lack of fitness, and there is a great scene early on between Sam and his trainer Donny (Lloyd Everitt, extremely strong) where he finds out that Donny has never seen Rocky by tricking him in to thinking that Stallone had a cat in the film called Ian. Also fun is the revelation that Donny’s favourite movie is Pretty Woman as “It’s hopeful. No matter what your past was you can still have a bright future” which is something which can’t be argued with either.
After that it becomes a bit more plot heavy though as Donny is mocked by a fellow trainer called Aled (Jonathan Pointing, who’s superb as an absolute bastard), suggesting he’s lost his edge, and though Donny doesn’t rise to his challenge of a fight in the ring Sam does, and only has a week to get in to shape and defeat him. Cue a work out montage which is okay but which feels like a missed opportunity to provide laughs, and then the final fight takes place. Giving away how it ends would of course be a huge spoiler, so all I will say is that Helm does pull off the ending at least, even if it isn’t anything that will have you in hysterics.
The central theme is summed up towards the end when Donny asks Sam why he’s doing all of this, with Sam replying “If I didn’t do something because I wasn’t very good at something, I wouldn’t do anything” which is a decent enough idea to hang the short around, and his defence of Donny is heart warming as well, but I just wish that Helm had chucked in a few more gags. Still, it shows him to be someone who’s more than capable of creating a very smart and thoughtful short film, and I do hope he gets the chance to do so again in the near future, if not even a series of them.