Yet another story about a crazed Vietnam vet on a crime spree, My Friends Need Killing nearly works. The premise is intriguing and tragic, leading man Greg Mullavey’s performance is fairly credible, and writer-director Paul Leder came up with an offbeat ticking-clock device because the vet’s girlfriend shares her fears with a psychiatrist who determines that action must be taken to prevent bloodshed. Unfortunately, Leder’s direction is hopelessly inept, and the film’s production values are distractingly shoddy. What should have been a crackerjack thriller with a humanistic core—something on the order of a good Larry Cohen movie—instead becomes a dreary slog with too much gore and too little momentum. Worse, Leder slides into the exploitation-movie gutter with an unnecessary subplot during which the vet becomes a rapist. Since My Friends Need Killing probably isn’t exciting enough to stimulate the lizard-brain crowd, it’s unfortunate that Leder’s sleazy extremes alienate the thinking audience.
After returning from Vietnam, Gene (Mullavey) suffers night terrors, alarming his wife, Laura (Meredith McRae). Turns out Gene believes that he and his comrades committed such heinous war crimes that all of them must die. He writes letters to his war buddies saying he’s going to visit them, and during each visit, Gene savagely murders one of his friends. Back home, Laura pieces together clues and talks to Gene’s shrink, so they eventually try to stop Gene’s bloody vengeance mission. Sometimes, Leder reveals what this movie might have been, as when Gene becomes conflicted about murdering a sensitive (read: gay) veteran. Other times, Leder follows the mindless thrill-kill path, devolving My Friends Need Killing into typical grindhouse junk. Still, the film has just enough compassion that it’s unwise to completely dismiss the endeavor. If nothing else, examining the way various filmmakers dealt with PTSD provides insights regarding attitudes toward veterans during a fraught time in American history.
My Friends Need Killing: FUNKY