Kill List (2011)

Directed By: Ben Wheatley
Written By: Ben Wheatley
  Amy Jump
Starring: Neil Maskell
  Michael Smiley
  MyAnna Buring
  Emma Fryer
Kill List

Hit men, paedophiles, family troubles, straw masks, Tyres from Spaced and one absolutely brutal hammer assault in a kitchen – Kill List is a refreshingly different and darkly mature piece of filmmaking, which sadly spirals awkwardly out of control towards the finale and ends up feeling like a demented genre mash-up that confuses more than it amazes.

Jay (Neil Maskell) has been out of work for eight months, and it’s tearing his family apart. His friend Gal (Michael Smiley) has a job for him to do, but he’s initially reluctant to take it, afraid to go back into the old “business”. This business happens to be the hit man business, but not in a classy way – it’s a rough, horrible job that may require killing a priest or a librarian rather than Scaramanga or Colonel Gaddafi – he is not James Bond. Eventually Jay concedes, and this decision takes him on a dark and dangerous journey that could rip his life apart and tear his family to shreds…

I would say more, but it will spoil the surprise / shock, and Kill List is swimming in surprise. This is perhaps the most difficult film to review without revealing everything in a couple of words, so I’m going to stick to the basics. Was is good? Yes. Was it exceptional? Sadly no.

Acting wise Kill List has done fantastically well with naturalistic performances all round. Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley gel perfectly as our hitmen duo, both amiable and deeply troubled in equal measure, whilst MyAnna Buring is excellent as Jay’s quietly furious stay-at-home wife Shel. Even the additional players such as  Mark Kempner and Emma Fryer do exceptionally well with the roles they’re given, ensuring the entire film is slapped with a down-to-earth realistic feel, until perhaps towards the end….

Ben Wheatley of Down Terrace fame directs and writes Kill List (with Amy Jump on co-writing duties), and whilst Wheatley’s direction is impeccable in a grim n’ gritty way, the script is deliberately confusing and laced with a – perhaps wrongly-perceived on my part – triteness that almost takes pleasure in confounding the audience. Some people will love where the plot leads, but personally I found it ridiculous and annoying in its deliberate evasiveness. I cannot and will not mention anything about it in this review as its spoilerifically rude to do so, but Kill List does not go down a route you’d ever expect it to…

Overall Kill List is an enjoyable, well-made, brilliantly acted film with some very memorable moments and a fresh uniqueness absent from a lot of modern horror. It will anger some, enthrall many and confuse many others, but it’s a finely crafted British horror / thriller with guts and originality. Not superb, but definitely worth a watch.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

One Comment on “Kill List”

  1. Sarah B DeMented says:

    Check out this write up – I found it pretty interesting and it clears up some points that weren’t immediately obvious on the first watch :)

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