This review is a part of Split Reel’s coverage on the Espoo Ciné International Film Festival in Espoo, Finland (19.8.-28.8.). Kill List was included in the Méliès d’Argent Competition. This review contains spoilers.
What .. the .. hell.
I don’t even know where to start with this one to be honest. I mean, I walked into the theatre with the impression that I was going to see a family-man turned contract killer thriller. This what it said on the Espoo Ciné website :
A long-term unemployed contract killer and his mate get a job that takes the men to the absolute heart of darkness. A hybrid of disturbing character drama, intensive crime thriller and pure horror film, Kill List has an ingenious structure that keeps the spectator gripping the seat until the shocking ending.
No one mentioned cults. No one mentioned The Hunchback.
Kill List kicks off with Jay (Neil Maskell and Shel (MyAnna Buring) fighting over money. There’s none left after Jay’s last paycheck from eight months ago. Shel pushesh Jay into taking on another job, a job that later turns out to be a series of contract killings.
Family friend, Gal (Michael Smiley) and Jay’s former number two let’s Jay in on a new gig even though Jay’s last job in Vienna went terribly wrong. (The audience never actually finds out what happened, but I’m guessing Jay went on a massive killing rampage and almost got caught.)
As they get their assignments, a contract is signed in blood. Their first job, taking down the priest, goes smoothly as Jay shoots the smiling clergyman in the back of the head. Next Jay and Gal move onto the librarian. As Jay finds out their target’s a snuff filmmaker, he loses his mind and seems to want to fulfil some kind of personal vendetta. As he’s bashing the librarian’s every joint with a hammer, the librarian continues to smile and thank Jay, thank him continuosly.
This is where I knew something was up. I mean besides Gal’s creepy girlfriend before who paints targets into people’s mirrors. There was too much weird fucking smiling at being killed. I actually felt the impulse to leave. Right there and there, with the hammer bashing into head in the background. I didn’t leave. But I’m not sure whether I should’ve.
Despite Jay’s off the grid work, they decide to continue to do their job (IT’S JUST A JOB MATE!) even though Gal is reluctant. Shel is surprisingly supportive of her husbands antics, but you know, she went to the army, she’s Swedish, she knows how these things go.
The last target on their list is the M.P.. They never get him. He gets them though. Big time. There’s a cult. That apparently has been targeting Jay “since Vienna”. He’s been chosen. To fight the Hunchback.
Strawmasks, nakedness, blood, guts, general fucked-upness ensue.
I was not prepared. I should’ve seen the trailer, it has more insight then synopses I’ve seen.
The film’s first half is great at balancing Jay’s role as a father, a husband and a killer. Once he can’t control his roles any more, his emotional and physical breakdown is a pleasure (if you can call it that) to watch. Gal offers a much needed comic relief with his general, lovely Irishness.
The most interesting part of the film is the relationship between Gal and Jay, they’re best friends and enemies at the same time. The selfproclaimed two musketeers have seen more together than almost anyone. Their friendship ends on a very tragic note as Jay has to let Gal out of his misery.
When it comes to British genre film, Kill List probably up there with the best. It’s just not my genre.
5 / 10
You Will Enjoy Kill List If…
– if you’re mentally prepared for a really f’ed up ride.