Movie Review ~ Kill List

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.

Stars:  Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley, Harry Simpson

Director: Ben Wheatley

Rated: Not Rated

Running Length: 95 Minutes

Random Crew Highlight: Armourer ~ Mike Wild

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  This is not a movie for everyone.  Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat.  Even hardcore genre fans will have a tough time with this one as it plays several nasty tricks with plot and logic that may be simply too much to accept for most.  Those that enjoy their films with a raw edge and a dangerous angle should pay attention, because this is one that may keep you up at night.

This UK crime thriller holds its cards so close to its chest that it’s nearly impossible to predict what the end outcome will be.  As our central character is led down a dark path with an unknown purpose we are along for every bump in the road…and this road has a lot of hard-nosed bumps.  In the early scenes, our central character is shown to be a devoted family man with a wife and child to support.  Not a lot of back-story is given but we soon come to realize our supposed dad of the year is a retired hit man with a Lady Macbeth-esque wife pushing him to take a new job as their bills and debt mount.

For a film with such a short running length there is a lot to take in.  Several long sequences in the first half set the stage for what is to come…I urge you to pay attention to these seemingly innocent exchanges because it may help you later on.

Where the film excels is keeping you so close to the edge of your seat and off balance – I was chilled to the bone several times throughout at unexpected places.  The dialogue is sparse and the direction by Wheatley is restrained enough to not so much lead the audience but point them to the right path to go it alone.  It helps that a spooky score by Jim Williams plays like a xylophone on your bones, it comes in at just the right times and causes its own set of goosebumps.

The idyllic beginning soon gives way to a grisly second half that will test your resolve in the violence department.  I’ve seen enough violent movies to stomach a lot but this film contains the kind of brutality that would never fly in the US.  I think it’s apropos to the picture, though, and as much as it may cause you to look away it adds greatly to the overall fear factor the movie continues to ratchet up.

In addition to the solid direction, the performances are uniquely perfect and mysterious.  No one is who they appear to be and that’s really only apparent after the final reel has unspooled.  Maskell makes a huge impression as a working class bloke that’s good at being a provider but even better as a steel-nerved hitman.  Killing without remorse with as much emotion as if he were stepping on an ant, Maskell fleshes out his character with enough depth to make him more than just a hired gun.  He’s well paired with Buring as his wife and Smiley as his partner in crime – both turn in fascinating work as people that should know better but do worse.

There comes a point in every thriller when plot points are revealed and, depending on the severity of the logic, the audience can either go with it or dismiss the movie outright.  Kill List has such a moment but luckily it’s so close to the end that by the time you’ve made your decision to love it or leave it the movie has wrapped itself up and made the decision for you.  It’s a pretty shady twist that sadly did not fly in my eyes…but based on the strength of the previous 90 minutes I am still suggesting this movie as an antidote to the expected and safe films you could be watching instead.  You may not love the film, but you can’t deny that it has tremendous guts to go where it goes and show what it shows.