I guess King of the Ants is what you get when you mix Reservoir Dogs with Halloween (with a little pinch of Cheers).
Though when all is said and done there are reasons I can’t rate this film too high, I will say upfront I ranged between moderately interested and engrossed as I watched. So it grabbed me in that sense anyway.
For the first half or so of the film, I thought I was watching a crime thriller, with genuinely intense, and for the most part realistic, moments of violence. The amateurish murder, which could have been played for laughs (and I’m sure will elicit laughs from some people) is particularly brutal and effective. Indeed, the behavior of the newbie hired to tail and then murder his victim is pretty much what one would expect from someone who is unsure of himself and making it up as he goes along.
Then he gets much too reckless and brave about crossing the people who hired him to be believable. He puts up little resistance to being hustled into a van and driven out to the middle of nowhere by a gang of them, just because he has some hidden documents to be opened in the event of his death that will incriminate them. Has this guy never seen the vise scene in Casino? He’s in a situation where the only thing it makes sense for his captors to do is to torture him, and he somehow thinks this gives him the upper hand.
Then the gang comes up with the bizarre plan to beat him in the head repeatedly and check him each day to see when he’s sustained enough brain damage to not be able to think and communicate coherently, at which point they can safely let him go. Really? Whatever was going to happen with the documents if he disappears or turns up dead, won’t happen if he wanders back with severe head injuries? Makes no sense.
Things get only more implausible after that, but in a sense that mattered less and less to me, because I gradually realized we had switched genres and really I was watching something more akin to a slasher movie, with all the conventions of suspended disbelief of that kind of movie, culminating in the unarmed killer easily massacring all his enemies, regardless of their number and weaponry.
King of the Ants is intense and gripping, it’s violent in a way that’s at least on the borderline of being excessive (I have mixed feelings about the violence of Reservoir Dogs, which I’d say slightly crosses that line for me; this is maybe a hair less disturbing in its intensity), and it’s silly. I can only give it a mixed verdict, but I will say it’s not a film I’ll soon forget. It makes an impression.
Oh, and why Cheers? George Wendt plays a creepy and quite believable bad guy. (Creepy, believable, and really obese. I know he was a stocky guy on Cheers, but it looks like he’s added quite a few pounds—and another chin or two—since then.)