Tony is quite an achievement. Much is hyped about low-budget movies that punch above their weight, but in the case of this movie, all of the attention is much deserved. Beautifully made, concise, moving, and so evocative it's guaranteed to stay in your mind long after the final credits, Tony is one of the best movies I've seen in quite some time. Despite being lazily labeled as a serial killer movie in the media (a description the director refutes), for all its grizzly inflections, Tony is actually quite a sad and touching film, easily fitting in alongside the best of Mike Leigh. While the actual violence mostly happens off-screen, and is implied more than glorified, the film expertly runs many parallel sub-texts: the destructive harm of alienation, and the failings of society when it comes to failed social housing plans, mental illness, and the destruction of community; the sadness of poverty, and the insidious stain of mass-media on our interior perspectives.
In terms of production, yes, Tony is low-budget, but the skill is that you'd never know, because instead of trying to over-stretch itself, this movie plays very much to simple but effective strengths. The direction is economic but sharp, with the evocation of gloom and loneliness a major triumph; and the subsequent contrasts between interiors and exterior, and the passing of time are amongst the most effective I've seen. Equally, the art direction is spot-on. To anyone watching this outside London, the blue plastic bags Tony uses may just be bags, but if you've lived in the city, you'll feel the creep of many a late-night corner shop visit; and the hopelessness of Tony's enforced reliance on a shabby TV and charity shop VHS tapes over contemporary satellites programming, DVDs, and an expensive wide-screen television plunge his place in the world far below the cliches of stereotypical dole-dwelling.
A major nod must also go to the collective performances, which are all stellar. Peter Ferdinando's Tony is expertly rendered, even down to his dodgy haircut; and the supporting characters that pass through Tony's life are also most valuable, all suggesting rich back-stories, thus - and importantly - allowing the film to transcend exploitation cliches to set this tale in a real life that's all too believable.
Last, but no means least, the soundscaping soundtrack - provided by Matt Johnson of The The - is perfect; the reverberation of accordions and pianos coming and going as echoes, building into a series of motifs that empower the visuals without ever being overbearing; complementing the action expertly in direct polarity to the lazy use of music for mood in so many Hollywood blockbusters.
Inevitably, this film won't appeal to all tastes, perhaps proving too sparse or arty for some, and no doubt too gory for others, but in terms of effective film-making Tony is a major, major triumph. A word of warning, though; Tony will stay with you long after, and may even bring you down for a while. But as a work of art - which this film is, without a doubt, or recourse to hyperbole - I can't recommended this film enough.