Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Kill List (2011) : A Near-Perfect Crime Thriller From The Brits

I've heard so much about KILL LIST within this last year that I can't believe it's taken me this long to get Ben Wheatley's well-received, cutthroat thriller in my hands.

At first, the film comes off rather as a family drama than a thriller, with couple Jay (Neil Maskell) and Shel (MyAnna Buring, The Descent) battling it out more than once with words as well as physical battles.
Their main argument seems to be about money, since apparently Jay hasn't worked a day in eight months. He struggles with some sort of PTSD after a stint in the service and some kind of ill-fated mission gone wrong in Kiev.

Their fight moves on to include a couple they have over for dinner, Gal (Michael Smiley) and Fiona (Emma Fryer).  Embarrassingly, their argument gets very heated and leads to thick tension among the group, with Jay and Shel taking it into another room as Gal takes the quarrelsome couple's young son to bed, promising him that sometimes best friends fight, married or not.
Meanwhile, Fiona proves she is not who she says she is by heading off to the loo and carving some odd ritualistic symbol on the back of Jay and Shel's mirror.  Obviously she's up to no good.

We soon learn that Jay and Gal were soldiers together, and after their military service they became hit men for hire.  Gal has a prospective "business venture" for the two of them, and urges Jay to get back into the swing of things. Shel knows her husband's profession and in fact pleads with him to take the job, as the money is quite good.  Decidedly anxious about his monetary situation (or lack thereof), Jay does indeed accept the assignment.

Up until this point, Jay really comes off as a passive person, in fact a bit of a dolt. But all this changes as he becomes serious about his given task and the real Jay steps forward.  They meet their new employer and get all the details. Unexpectedly, the client cuts Jay's hand and seals the deal in blood.  That probably should have been the first clue that something was amiss.

First up on the kill list is a priest, and we quickly find out Jay is the more bloodthirsty of the two men. The man of the cloth is swiftly dispatched with a bullet to the head, but not before he bizarrely thanks Jay for killing him.  As they move on to the second hit - a child pornographer - Jay becomes increasingly violent, graphically bludgeoning the man's head in with a hammer after beating him up. Again, the victim thanks Jay for ending his life.  What the hell?

While Jay is busy kicking the shit out of people, Gal is discovering that there are files on he and Jay that describe their failed mission in the Ukraine, but he overlooks one of the documents that has the same mysterious symbol on it that Fiona carved into the mirror just days before.(We however, are meant to notice it.)

The men take to the woods in a hunt for their last victim, who works for Parliament. What happens in these woods surprised the hell out of me. The film does a near 180 and shifts from crime thriller to horror film in about five minutes.  While it seems like that would be a harsh technique, Wheatley manages this feat effortlessly, turning the plot on its ass and bringing us a shocking, disturbing finale.

In truth, the first third of the movie does move along at a snail's pace as the director introduces us to the characters and allows us to get to know them better.
But as mentioned, just when you think Jay is the unassuming, reticent type, he blows us away with his ruthless temper and penchant for over-the-top murder.

My only gripe next to the rather drawn-out beginning would be the sound. Perhaps it was just my DVD, but I had to push my volume to the upper limits of outer space to hear everything they were saying. In addition, I'm fairly well-versed in British films, but the accents were a bit hard for my apple-pie American ears to decipher. I'd have it up to 100 trying to hear a conversation and then would get blown away when someone shouted or fired a gun.
This is not a major fail though, as it certainly didn't bother me enough to turn the movie off.

In all, I'd say Kill List is a film that very much deserves the accolades it has received, with impressive acting and a "Wham! Bet you didn't see THAT coming..." ending.
It reminded me of another film but to say which would spoil the surprise and give too much away.
But by all means, check this one out.


Pixel Pixie said...

A tip for dealing with accents in movies: turn on the English language subtitles. I had an ex that refused to even try to understand accents.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Christine, could you do me a big favour and never reveiw any more British made garbage on this site ever again, this is a marvellous site (one of the best of its kind anywhere on the internet) and i dont want to see it being besmirched and polluted with British made rubbish like this, will you promise me Christine ! ?, i`d really appreciate it darlin`.

Christine Hadden said...

Pixie: Very good point. I guess I hadn't thought of doing that with a "non-foreign" film, but sometimes that accents are pretty thick, even though they are speaking my own language. :)

Oh Jimmie (a.k.a.) Hamster: You'll note I only posted the least vulgar comments.
I love British films. My blog. My rules.