John Dahl returns to the quirky crime genre where he's found the most acclaim with films like Red Rock West and The Last Seduction. You Kill Me is the story of an alcoholic hit man (Ben Kingsley) who falls in love while trying to clean up.
John Dahl on You Kill Me
"I love doing these kind of films," said Dahl. "They're just hard to get made. Black comedies are always a challenge. If I take a script and I try to go out and cast it, people read it and go, 'Eh…' This film at least you start with the script, Ben Kingsley and Tea [Leoni]. Even at the beginning of that journey, it's a little hard for people to see. But as you start to add more and more of the elements, it becomes a little more obvious to people the kind of movie it's going to be. But Hollywood becomes more interested in a way letting marketing departments dictate what kind of films they'll make, because they're so tired of going to meetings on Monday morning with the marketing guy saying, 'See, we told you…' They want things that are genres, things that are easier to sell. These are less obvious."
Compared to his previous films, You Kill Me is the most defined by its time. It feels like modern day New Jersey, but that's as specific as it gets. "Some people do those movies where they are very of the moment. You see the film and it's just like, 'Wow, how did they make that in a year and get it out and it feels like a live this moment?' Some people do that well. I like movies that hopefully you can watch 10 years from now or 20 years from now. There's something still relevant. I prefer a very classic or look that puts the characters and the story first rather than the design and all the other window dressing. I have a tendency to try to wipe that out."
The hitman gets a job in a funeral parlor making up dead bodies. Dahl wanted to go with real cadavers, but could not. " That's always a complicated thing because there's always going to be an issue of them breathing if they're real people. But no, it's very expensive to get dummies basically. They don't look very lifelike so they are extras from Winnipeg. Where they were breathing, we just digitally flattened their chest. So they'd look like they're not breathing."