Kill List - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
DAVID Fincher (the director of Se7en and Fight Club) once said that he thought films should scar. Ben Wheatley’s unsettling Kill List does just that.
A disturbing mix of domestic drama, comedy bro-mance, hitman thriller and horror, it’s one of the most original films you’re likely to see this year.
And it works best the less you know about it.
So, without revealing too much, the plot follows a troubled ex-soldier and father-turned-hitman named Jay (Neil Maskell) who agrees to take on ‘one last job’ with best friend Gal (Michael Smiley) in the hope it’ll put his marriage to Shel (MyAnna Buring) back on track.
But why do his victims keep thanking him? Who is the mysterious man who hires them? And why are masked people running around naked in the woods?
Wheatley’s film was partly inspired by recurring nightmares the director suffered as a child but also offers a keen mix of social commentary and film homage for those really paying attention.
Maskell’s leading man reflects traumatised soldiers coming back from a war they don’t understand in Iraq while his predicament is a nod to the economic turmoil of recent timed and the social degeneration that, in Wheatley’s own recent words, contributed to the recent UK riots.
But rather than feeling preachy or obvious, his themes bubble beneath the surface of a film that’s as much about deconstructing genre and audience expectation as it is paying homage to horror greats like The Wicker Man or the films of Alan Clark.
The performances, too, are chillingly authentic and couched in a reality created by Wheatley’s decision to spend plenty of time in their everyday company. You care what happens to them even as events begin to turn very, very nasty.
And take my word, Kill List is not for the squeamish or easily disturbed, nor is it for audiences who like pat, fully explained endings.
There’s an ambiguity here that’s both daring and frustrating and several plot turns and sequences that feel as inspired as they are shocking (and borderline reprehensible).
No matter what you may ultimately think of it, Wheatley – who previously directed Down Terrace – is undoubtedly a major talent to watch. And while Kill List comes recommended, it’s a hardcore piece of work that will push audiences to extreme places they may not always enjoy being taken.
Running time: 90mins
UK Release Date: September 2, 2011