Movie Review: Kill List (2011)

2 Stars


Kill List (2011)

Kill List (2011)


Director: Ben Wheatley

Cast: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson

Synopsis: A hired killer begins to psychologically unravel after taking on a job to kill three targets.

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WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!

A film that polarised opinion upon its release in 2011, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List follows one man’s descent into hell.   The man in question is Jay (Neil Maskell – Pusher, Evil Never Dies), an outwardly normal family man who just happens to be a professional hit-man with his partner Gal (Michael Smiley – The World’s End, Black Sea), a former comrade from his army days.   Jay’s been putting off going back to work after a botched hit in Kiev which is repeatedly referred to but never explained, and only reluctantly accepts a new job to carry out three hits in the UK.   However, what appears to be a straightforward job is anything but, and Jay finds himself beginning to unravel psychologically under the strain.

Kill List is one of those films that tells it’s story in a deliberately oblique way; we think we are watching one thing when we are, in fact, watching something else entirely so that we are as essentially clueless as to what is going on as Jay is.   We, at least, get the chance to rewind in order to figure out just what’s been going on – and trust me, you’ll have to watch Kill List at least twice to even begin to figure it out.

The final fifteen minutes almost seem to be from a different film at first, but what appear to be unimportant early scenes are given significance by what occurs later – the knockabout family game in the garden, for example – and the plot follows a rigid course marked with signs that, in retrospect, clearly illustrate the reasons such a brutal fate awaits Jay: his psychotic capacity for violence which is held at bay by the pills he takes, his ‘acceptance’ of an offering which he believes to be from the family cat, his clash with the born-again Christians, all offer subtle clues as to how and why he is singled out by the members of a Satanic cult.

Although Kill List is ultimately a horror movie, it starts out like a Mike Leigh domestic drama before changing into a character study, then briefly going off at a tangent to become a revenge thriller. Nothing and nobody are as they seem, and there are numerous theories and interpretations as to what it all means.   While its ending is entirely logical, it doesn’t sit well with the rest of the film on first viewing and many viewers will be left with a lot of questions unanswered.

The acting, by a largely unknown cast, is spot on, especially from the two male leads, who are helped immeasurably by a realistic and naturalistic script from the director and his wife, Amy Jump.

(Reviewed 17th January 2012)





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