Written by Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump
Directed by Ben Wheatley
One of the most talked about films at both the SXSW and Toronto Film Festivals, the British horror/thriller Kill List is finally getting a proper US release via VOD platforms on January 4th, 2012. An amalgamation of a few different types of genre film, Kill List concerns hit man Jay (Neil Maskell) who has a crumbling family life as he and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) struggle financially. While it is never expressly stated, something went wrong on Jay’s last “business trip” to Kiev, and he has been out of work since. When his buddy and partner Gal (Michael Smiley) comes with the opportunity of a job, he takes it, not only to earn money and alleviate the pressure of his family life, but to blow off steam and frustration in his own way. Gal is the only person that seemingly understands Jay, even though Shel knows what he does, she really doesn’t understand a lot of Jay’s behavior.
When they meet The Client, there are some strange procedures in the mix, but Jay and Gal seem to accept it as the price of doing this type of business, and aren’t bothered by it. When they get down to the hit list, the first person on it is a priest. While Gal has his reservations, Jay is not bothered by who he has to kill. However, something the priest says to him, just before catching a bullet in the head, is what begins to bother Jay.
The next name on the list provides Jay with more malice, but again, he leaves Jay puzzled with what he says just before he is killed. The final person on their list is “The M.P.”, and while camping out to figure out how to go about the job, they are interrupted by a bizarre meeting in the woods. The rest of the film is what has been blowing the minds of audiences, but unfortunately I found it derivative of too many other films to be anything spectacular.
While the film is well shot, with interesting locations, and lead man Neil Maskell shoulders an interesting character with a lot of demons. The best scenes are the ones where Jay has to confront his family, which he can’t just kill with explosive anger, it is interesting to watch this violent man react to every day life. The photography is very interesting, minimalist without being constantly dark.
The ending has some people confused, and while I agree with some that the ending was hinted at throughout the film, there really is no way to predict what will happen, and unfortunately, there is no explanation as to why what is happening is happening. Those that have seen the two films that this one borrows from might not be as impressed, especially since those other films have more satisfying endings with similar execution. Still, it’s an interesting film, quite dark in subject matter, with a bravura performance by Neil Maskell as a complicated family man. Recommended for those into survival horror, or hard-edge thrillers that don’t pull any punches.