Ciné Coverage : Kill List (2011)

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.

Kill List is by no means a bad film. Ben Wheatley is a master of his genre, and he has an intriguing take on directing.

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.

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15 responses to “Ciné Coverage : Kill List (2011)

  1. oh no. i feel partially responsible for your having a bad time. i can safely say from your review that it wasnt simply because you didn’t ‘get’ it though, which, at least, is a good thing. you just didn’t enjoy it as much as me and that is fair enough.

    it is a truly horrifying ending. i didn’t post anything regarding it on my review but as you’ve mentioned it here, the ending reminded me quite a lot of THE WICKER MAN. some of the violence i turned away from but clearly it didn’t affect me as much as it did you.

    your line:

    “You Will Enjoy Kill List If…

    – if you’re mentally prepared for a really f’ed up ride.”

    would be an absolutely perfect advertising slogan that i’m sure the film makers would be more than happy to use.

    • Haha don’t feel like that!

      That’s the problem with film festivals. You see films that you have no idea what they’re about. And then there’s the contrasts! The previous film I saw was a charming Norwegian black comedy (which I’m reviewing soon) that had such a different atmosphere to this.

      I can see where it fits in British film, and it can become a kind of genre gem or cult classic. I just felt like I wasn’t given enough before the cult stuff began, to be prepared for that shit! I mean, I think I might have liked it more if there were more “clues” of the cult before the showdown. I mean, just seeing one guy with a starwmask before the ending would’ve been nice. Or if the snuff film they were watching was made by the cult, they could’ve shown a bit of that. I just felt like the whole thing came from nowhere and it was real creepy man.

      I tried not to say what the hunchback was, just in case someone reads this before seeing the film, but man was that fucked up.

      I feel like I’ve cursed a lot when talking about this film but I have no other words.

      • ok i wont feel bad.

        personally if id have expected that ending i wouldn’t have been as impressed or enthusiatic about it. i’m glad theyre not giving anything away with the marketing.

        swearing is a legitimate response to this movie. it provokes huge reactions in every way. what i dont understand is my friend kate who said the other day “that it was ok.” i dont htink theres much room for an unemotional reaction to this.

  2. Well I’m intrigued enough to go see it when it’s released.Trouble is I doubt, just from reading this, that it will get a wide release and I will have to hunt it down or miss it. Thanks for the review, though!

  3. So what I get from your review you just weren’t expecting to be as f*cked up as it turned out to be. I can see where you’d be turned off by that.

    It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad a film I guess. From your review it wouldn’t be to my taste either. I don’t go for craziness to well.

  4. Wow. I didn’t read all of your review because I wanted to stay in the dark, but it sounds extremely intense. I also feel a little responsible for you seeing this because I mentioned it too :-p I hope you’re not too scarred!

    • Haha, I don’t really get scarred or scared for that matter, but it’s really hard to recalibrate your approach when 60% of the film is exactly what you thought it was and then something completely different and crazy happens. It’s a good thing as well, but now that I’ve been reading reviews a lot of people have pointed out that they’re definitely not jealous of the marketing team that aren’t supposed to let too much away but still promote the film as is. Which is really difficult since it’s such a genre mix.

  5. yeah “it was ok” was the extent of her reaction. no shock, no horror, no hint of being appalled, no real love, enjoyment or hatred, no real reaction at all infact.

    my project is more about love and the coming apocalypse. i was using the idea of losing lots of small things to enlighten my protagonist about how life has meaning. just in time for the world to end. but i dont need luck. i need time and inspiration. major writers block. brain block. brain drain.

    • Ah, the French translation got me on the wrong track then.
      Sounds really cool! What I find helps with writers block is … no .. no tips from me! I usually need something to clear my head completely, whatever that is.

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