Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

What the hell…? So I’m out an about minding my own business when I get the word about Director Ben Wheatley’s film ‘Kill List’. Five stars here, five stars there, ‘The Best British Thriller in Years…’ the blurbs would say. So who the hell am I not to watch this movie? Nobody, that’s who. I’m now a slave to the hype machine. The thing is I’m not here to disagree all that much with anything anybody’s saying about this movie, at least for the first two acts and most of the third act of ‘Kill List’. Those last five minutes however… What the hell?

Right now Jay (Neil Maskell) isn’t having the best life. He has some physical problems that he looks to be trying to fix with painkillers and scotch, and he hasn’t worked in eight months which leads to Jay having money problems that ties directly into his serious marital problems. Jay is borderline an abused husband as his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) often gets so frustrated with her husband that she is prone just wail on this dude. She’s a little bitty thing though and she can’t do all that much damage, but still.

The one thing Jay does have going for him is his young son Sam (Harry Simpson), but from where I’m sitting, that’s about it. One evening Jay’s mate Gal (Michael Smiley) comes to dinner with his new girl Fiona (Emma Fryer) and after Jay and Shel put on some of their usual fireworks, everybody calms down and has a good time. Gal pulls Jay to the side and lets him now that he has a gig, and that Kiev was eight months ago so it’s time to get back to work. Kiev? What the hell happened in Kiev? We will never know, but we can easily surmise that it wasn’t good. Jay was a little hesitant about going back to work, but the the money is good and Jay does need the money so…

What is Jay and Gal’s occupation? They murder people is what they do. They meet with some strange dude known only as The Client (Struan Rodger), Jay gets his hand sliced for whatever reason, the deal is now signed in blood and our hitmen get a list of people they need to kill. Simple.

Good hitmen don’t ask too many questions when going about their business, but the people these guys are knocking off is nothing if not odd. Plus it’s as if they know Jay.

Even going so far as to thank him for killing them. Huh? There was the one guy to whom Jay did some things to that were absolutely horrific… and he thanked Jay too. Even though this whole hitman thing was Gal’s idea and stuff, the job is too weird and Jay is acting far too strange and he wants out. Yeah… not happening. They have to finish the list or suffer the consequences. To be honest with you… I’ve seen what happens when they do finish the job, so in retrospect maybe quitting wouldn’t have been so bad… I’m just saying is all I’m saying. And then it gets real weird.

With Mr. Wheatley’s ‘Kill List’ we have a movie that is about as well reviewed and as well received as any movie, that the overwhelming majority of the people on the planet haven’t seen, as any movie I can recall in recent memory. After seeing this movie there are some good reasons for the praise for this film. Neil Maskell has shown in other roles, such as ‘Rise of the Footsoldier, that he can do bad real good and Jay is pretty damn bad. Plus, thanks to the script written by Wheatley and Amy Jump, Jay and Gal have some great dialog, are placed in some precarious situations, some funny situations such as Jay’s classic protestation of the Christian acoustic Guitar player, and they are placed in some seriously tense situations. The performances all around were great, particularly MyAnna Buring. Miss Buring is usually stuck playing the cute pretty girl… probably because she a cute pretty girl… and while she’s no less cute and pretty here, she’s such a shrew and she’s so mean and makes absolutely no attempt to hide her disdain for her husband that she infinitely becomes less cute and pretty with every bitter and acidic word that comes out of her mouth.

This script also keeps you guessing because we, or at least I, didn’t know what this was all leading to. I was thinking it was some ‘Wicker Man’ type stuff, maybe, but who knows? Until it got to where it was going, the atmosphere was tense, the surroundings were grey and dour, the soundtrack was oppressive and we knew whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be anything good.

Then we get to the end of the movie. In all honesty this ending doesn’t come from just nowhere. No… what actually happened was set up very well and in the grand scheme of things… if you accept it without explanation… which you have no choice but to do… it makes sense. Some of us, however, aren’t so quick to accept this without explanation. Does this mean I need my hand held and guided? I don’t think so, but I do like to be given the tools to render some sort of plausible explanation as to why this or that is occurring. Now it is possible that the ‘Kill List’ narrative gave me these tools and I was just too slow to pick them up… not beyond of the realm of reality that theory… but the fact remains that I didn’t get them.

What the hell man? ‘Kill List’ has too much atmosphere, too much tension, and too many fine performances to do anything other than recommend it… but what the hell?

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