Kill List (2012)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Two hitmen (Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley) take a seemingly “easy” job from some creepy old dude (Struan Rodger): three kills on a list, piece of cake right? But the lower they get on the list, the more NUTS things become. What the HELL is going on over here? More than meets the eye a-holes! Transform!
I was so stoked for this bad ass! Why? Cause I only heard two things about it: 1- That it was a freaking masterpiece. 2- That it sucked Rhino marbles. Usually, mass polar extreme opinions means that I’m in for something that goes against the grain and I’m always up for that! Now, Kill List had a Festival run in 2011 and finally got a limited theatrical release in the US of A this year. Trust me when I say this; I had to go through my own kill list to catch this elusive bastard. So was it worth the wait and the murders I had to commit? Yup!
To be honest, it took me two separate watches to fully value this one for what it was. After my first viewing, I thought “hey, it was all right” but as the days went on, I kept thinking about the damn thing, feeling like I had missed something. The fact that it stayed with me for so long and that I actually cared enough to want to see it again meant “something”, I wasn’t sure what but that RARELY happens to me. So I pushed back my review and found the time to bash its head in again. On my second sit down, it all came together for me and as the end credits rolled I was OWNED! Next thing you know what was once a decent movie became an awesome one. The thing about Kill List is that for a while, I didn’t feel like I was watching a horror movie. The “family” dynamics were initially “harmless” while the washed out look on hand reminded me of them old British crime movies. As the clock ticked forward, I started to get some Kubrick-ish vibes from it (wide shots, nutty sound design) and by the end of it all; The Wicker Man (no, not the remake) popped in my head. How’s that for a motherf*cking mix!
One of the film’s key strength (and in others opinion, its main weakness) was that it told its story in a mucho low-key way. The WHY and the HOW were there but gunned out in a vague manner. You got it; all the power to you; you didn’t, and you’re not getting the full slam. My first watch was akin to a surreal, Lynch-like nightmare put on celluloid. But on my second watch, knowing the ending off hand, I paid closer attention to the little hints that it put out there, the details, and got the full picture. Well, what I perceived to be the full picture... good enough for me! Beyond that, the acting was excellent! Neil Maskell was likeable and intimidating as Jay; think a human time bomb that can blow up at any minute. Michael Smiley was affable as the “best friend” with a penchant for chasing tail while MyAnna Buring put out an ideal mix of toughness and vulnerability that sold the role. I heard that lots of the dialogue here was improvised by the actors and that would explain as to why it sounded so organic, hence lending further credibility to the proceedings.
Yeah... director Ben Wheatley was definitely a sly one in terms of his approach to the material. The “every day life” scenarios and the overall ambiguity of the narrative progression somewhat disarmed me off the bat. So when the suspense started to crank up, the extreme violence EXPLODED onto the screen and the shit was eventually shredded by the fan, I was pummeled like a Tickle Me Elmo smacked around by an ADD kid on too much Ritalin. I also loved his eye behind the lens. His use of wide shots, slow motion and how he tagged his music to his imagery was pure genius. Add to all that loving; an exceptionally powerful sound design (dug them moans and high pitch screams), an oppressive/unsettling atmosphere (supported by DOP Laurie Rose's fine work) and a chaotic score that got crazier as the story progressed and you get one for the Black Bible!
Any qualms with it? Some. I picked up on a couple of minor oversights (like how so and so open up the safe without the combination). Nothing severe, but I noticed. In addition; even after two watches, some questions were still left unanswered. So either I’m an idiot, the affair was too mind-f*cky for its own good or that was simply the point. You choose (I go with the first option)! Finally; I couldn’t help but think of another recent foreign film (released in 2010) while taking this one in. The set up and the way the ending unraveled were somewhat familiar. I won’t say which movie it was, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but being that I had seen it not so long ago; it shaved off some O.G. points. Overall though, I can now see how KILL LIST is a love it or hate it flick. Thankfully for me; after two viewings, I loved it.
When this one went for it, it WENT for it. We get a cut hand, a head bashed in, fun times with a hammer, a hanging, stabbings and more!
T & A
We get chicks asses, titties and even some twat shots. I didn’t get aroused once. Why? You’ll see…
It’s Get Carter, meets The Wicker Man by way of Lynch! After two sittings, KILL LIST did right by me! The acting was astounding whilst the vagueness of the HOW and WHY fairly refreshing. You really have to pay attention here, more so than the norm. Moreover, the tension laced bits got to me, the extreme violence splat hard and the finale threw me around like a rag-doll. Granted there were some common sense hick-ups along the way, some questions were left unanswered and another 2010 genre offering kept coming to mind; but on a whole I got so much out of this one! Like I said before, in my world. any movie that immediately demands a second viewing out of me, and actually gets it, must have something special! I went back all right and got more! You like it eerie, not spelled out and with a handful of mind-f*ck? Slap KILL LIST on your list!
The film was shot in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in England.
It was written by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump (her first credit)
MyAnna Buring was also in the horror film Devil's Playground (2010) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part 1 and 2).
Neil Maskell also acted in the turkey Basic Instinct 2 (2006)