The first part of SIGHTSEERS, the pitch black new British comedy about RV travel and murder, is pretty great. Alice is a sad, under-appreciated lump of a woman, still living with her Mother, in some semi-Little/Big Edie dynamic that has grown even testier since the only creature her Mother ever truly loved (Poppy, the dog, naturally) died a little while a go in a freak knitting accident (shown in a very special/very unforgettable flashback).
Luckily, at least she has found love in Chris, and equally sad, under-appreciated lump of a man, and the two of them, freshly coupled up, embark on what only the British could even remotely consider a romantic vacation: a jaunt across the rainy, damp Lancashire in an RV. The purpose? To show her HIS world.
Next thing you know, somewhere between Mentos breaks (“Mint me!” growls Chris) and calls back home to assure Mum everything is very much in order, we realize that Chris is a crazy psycho, prone to homicide at the tip of the hat (or the sight of a litterer), and Alice is not all that better herself. Soon, that rainy, damp RV trip earns another adjective: bloody (as all hell). It is also pretty damn hilarious, mainly due to inherent dead-panness of the two leads and some effective camera work and classic synth soundtrack moments.
Left at that point, SIGHTSEERS would be a minor masterpiece of British comedy (Edgar Wright is one of producers, btw). However, it then decides to keep going (and going).
The main issue movies about road-tripping killer/renegade couples have is that sometimes, all that killing becomes pointless to the viewer (see GOD BLESS AMERICA, as a recent example), and SIGHTSEERS is no different. The murder spree, while joyfully absurd at first, soon becomes borderline tedious especially since Chris really seems to take ANYTHING as a reason to kill. If murder can happen at any point, the audience will eventually turn a little numb, and the visual joke of seeing a horrible crime in the backdrop of places as mundane as the Northern England’s Pencil Museum soon wears off (though, kudos to director Ben Wheatley to working on making the violence as real as the humor, throughout) and we are left with two sad sacks who just don’t appreciate the fact that you’re not picking up your ice cream wrapper from the floor (notable homicide explanation: “He’s not a person Tina, he’s a Daily Mail reader”). Which, no matter how much you try to put a social satire hat on it, is still a pretty flimsy premise. Been there, done that, seen many road murders happen already, thankyouverymuch.
Still, that first part – that first part is better than most other things you’ll see across two hours all summer long, and well worth the admission price.