Kill List

Ben Wheatley made his film debut in 2009 with Down Terrace, a film about a father and son who have just been released from prison and are determined to uncover the police informant threatening their family ‘business’ – it’s a tense, realistic social drama and pretty amazing for a first film.

Wheatley’s new film is called Kill List and it is again generating the same hype as his previous work…

Kill List follows Jay (Neil Maskell) – a family man and devoted husband who also happens to work as a hitman. He hasn’t worked for 8 months though and his wife, Shel (MyAnna Buring), knows that their savings are getting low. One night over a dinner party with his friend and ‘colleague’ Gal (Michael Smiley), he tells Jay about a new job that has come up. After some persuading Jay decides to get back in the game. But when they both go on the road, things take a mysterious turn for the worst…

I couldn’t really say much more about Kill List without giving away the plot and its excellent, unpredictable twists. This is part of the films appeal: it starts out as a realistic, domestic drama following Jay and his wife going about their daily lives with their young son in their lovely home; seeing them cook and shop, watching them argue and fight… Then it becomes a gangster road trip movie when the two men go off on their job. And then it becomes entirely different yet again…

The convincing performances all add to the realism of the film – Neil Maskell plays Jay as lost and downtrodden one minute, and then out-of-control psychotic the next. And MyAnna Buring as his wife is similarly loving and caring to Jay and then suddenly violent towards him. To say theirs is a volatile relationship would be an understatement… However the one person who really keeps the film watchable is Michael Smiley as Gal – he’s kind and understanding and also very, very funny.

In fact, Kill List has plenty of funny moments, whether it’s straight-up laughs or more black comedy from the nastier scenes. This humour is needed for a film as dark as this – it’s full of quick, sudden moments of brutal violence from which the laughs come as a necessary relief. Sometimes the violence is graphic and sometimes it’s the parts left unseen that are all the more horrid. Either way, you’ll be squirming in your seat on more than one occasion.

Not only that but it is also very scary in parts. Wheatley nicely builds up the tension in certain scenes (especially in one involving a very long take) and further builds it up until the terrifying conclusion. There’s also a brilliantly scary scene with a dark and dingy tunnel – it’s almost unbearable to watch and it’s so well filmed.

Wheatley doesn’t reveal all by the end though – you’ll be thinking about Kill List and debating it for days afterwards, which is another reason why it’s so appealing.

Writer and director Wheatley has again made another great British production that deftly mixes different genres and themes to make a gripping and interesting film that seems to have one more story to it. You won’t be able to guess what happens in the twisty, final act either. A truly realistic and scary film. Can’t wait to see what Wheatley does next.


~ by square-eyed-geek on September 15, 2011.

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