Writer/director Ashley Cahill stars as Malcolm, a British ex-pat living in NYC. He's obsessed with the gritty, violent, dangerous New York of the 1980s and does everything he can to bring back the chaos. And by everything, I mean he murders random people for about 90 minutes of screen time.
Random Acts of Violence is what it's advertised as. It's a fake documentary about a murderer going about his daily life and killing people. The new idea here is a nostalgia for the darker side of NYC.
There is a definite voice that pines for the old NYC. They don't full on support all the violence, but they miss the edge. There was an alluring sense of danger and a lack of inhibitions that produced some real cultural touchstones.
Current NYC is significantly safer. Times Square, for instance, is like a theme park, costumed mascots and all. Any edge that remains in the formerly dangerous neighborhoods comes from the attitude of the people, not an actual danger.
What's hard to watch in Random Acts of Violence is someone dedicated to the appalling crime as a means of restoring the culture of NYC. It's a cart before the horse moment. It's a terribly misguided view that doesn't evolve in any significant way throughout the film. Malcolm even explains at one point that the youth should determine their values while young and stick to them, no matter what.
The greater arc in the film is that Malcolm believes his one-man crime spree can start a revolution. The problem is, the people he's murdering are so insignificant in the context of modern NYC that they don't even make the paper. If there's no publicity, there's no movement, and his plan fails. So he keeps trying to up the game again and again while ranting harder about his old-crime manifesto.
Malcolm is followed around by a two person film crew all day, every day. They argue with Malcolm over the how and why of filming all these crimes. Malcolm wants full control of his manifesto, while the filmmakers want to make their documentary. That bit of tension at least gives Random Acts of Violence a little novelty in a surprisingly deep well of POV serial killer films.
Random Acts of Violence is exactly what you would expect. That's not a bad thing. There's an audience for this kind of thrill kill/in the mind of a murderer narrative and has been for decades. A more seasoned horror watcher might not get much from it, but someone less knowledgeable in this subgenre will get plenty of shock value out of it.
Random Acts of Violence is currently streaming on Netflix.