A creative-writing teacher in Laugh Killer Laugh instructs his students to fictionalize their own personal experiences. For sad-sack second-story man Frank Stone (William Forsythe), that means exposing his criminal activity and Mob connections under a pseudonym. For writer-director Kamal Ahmed, it seems to mean trying to wring drops of entertainment from hours spent in writing workshops. It doesn’t work out well for either of them. Stone steals, kills, gets belittled by his gangster handlers, and is haunted by the memory of childhood abuse (Tom Sizemore acts it out in flashback, on sleazy cruise control). He also meets lonely Jackie (Bianca Hunter), who clumsily tries to get him to open up. Conversations meander and fizzle; characters repeat themselves, speaking in banalities and clichés. Forsythe’s Stone is always set to a low, dull simmer; his one moment of excitement is when he takes out his rage on a ventriloquist’s dummy. The second-act turn hinted at in the title — Stone gets a beatdown that puts him into a coma, from which he emerges somehow giddy and unburdened — comes a full hour in. The transformation, facile and unconvincing, is nonetheless a new note in this monotone film. It comes way too late to do any good.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 22, 2015