Kill List (18)

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Thrillers

Kill List

Michael Smiley, left, and Neil Maskell in Kill List

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Aug 30 2011

Ben Wheatley’s self-funded debut feature ‘Down Terrace’ was an odd beast. It was hard to tell how much of the wordy, ultraviolent gangster comedy’s undeniable power was intentional and how much was derived from its micro-budgeted on-a-wing-and-a-prayer production. Well, here’s the answer: on the strength of ‘Kill List’, Wheatley might be the most idiosyncratic and exciting filmmaker the UK has produced since Shane Meadows.

Much of ‘Kill List’ will be familiar to anyone who caught ‘Down Terrace’ during its brief run last year: the semi-improvised dialogue and naturalistic performances, the close, documentary-style photography and the deep-seated sense of suburban moral decay. But it’s altogether more confident: where the earlier film leavened the darker moments with slapstick and satire, ‘Kill List’ is an unrelentingly grim ride into the bleakest imaginable terrain, its only humour black beyond belief.

It begins in a quiet housing estate, where Jay (cockney shoot-’em-up veteran Neil Maskell) and Shel (MyAnna Buring) are trying to raise their seven-year-old son amid money troubles and a faltering marriage. The arrival of Jay’s foul-mouthed colleague Gal (Michael Smiley) and his paramour Fiona (Emma Fryer) prompts a realisation: these two apparently normal working stiffs are, in fact, hired hitmen, and it’s time for them to get back to work. But who is their enigmatic new client, why does he want them to knock off a priest and what’s his connection to the mysterious Fiona?

For the first 45 minutes, this seems like a fairly standard killer-for-hire set-up. The editing and the audio palette are unusual and unsettling, the performances noticeably superior and the mood unrelentingly claustrophobic, but the plot seems to follow a predictable template. Then something happens – no clues except to say that it involves a hammer – and ‘Kill List’ takes a sharp left-turn into no man’s land.

There will be some who find the resulting series of increasingly brutal and dreamlike events hard to process, and a number of plot points remain unexplained even as the credits roll. But allow the film to take hold and its power is inescapable: the effect is like placing your head in a vice and waiting as it inexorably closes.

It’s hard to remember a British movie as nerve-shreddingly effective since ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ in 2004. Like that film, ‘Kill List’ may not make the impact it deserves upon initial release. But this is a grower, a film which lingers long in the memory: look for it on ‘Best of British’ lists for a long time to come.
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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Sep 2, 2011

Duration:

95 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:7
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|30
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Rich H

This is not a typical movie. Its not cliched, it doesn't use a worn plot pattern (although parts will echo with other movies) and the style is totally unique. My issue with this film - and its my only issue - is killing of a child that occurs in it. A number of people expressed concern at 'not understanding' it - I don't think you are fully meant to at all here. People are polarised on this film - its real marmite stuff. Personally, I loved it and the film stayed with me a for while afterwards but I get why others object to it. I watch a lot of movies so for me, seeing something this original and challenging was really refreshing.

dsmith

There was a point where I considered walking out of the movie and the revulsion brought up by the final scene was strong enought that I immediately wished I had... Having slept on it, Kill List was pretty much what I had hoped for - a movie about something other than what was happening on the screen, Watch it again? Nope.

brutaldeluxe09

A strangely compelling film, very well acted/directed and the production values are entirely delibarate, the sound in particular is very effective. The plot cam seem slightly disjointed but it's supposed to be. A typically British film this may not be a classic but it's a very good film and it should be saluted!

John Cooper

An ambitious film which ultimately takes on too mucn getting lost in the process. There's the `hitmen as buddies` scenario, a gritty, sardonic British version of Pulp Fiction, then there's the psychological analysis element which tries to ground the film in surburban realism . . . . . and then there's The Wicker Man in the final reels, where presumably the film-makers are trying to incorporate diverse philosophical ideas into what is already a head mix. Ths film succeeds in that it poses questions about the nature of good and evil, and about human capacity for love and hate. However the film is gripping and the editing and the soundtrack are intermittently effective. However it's too much of a mish mash to achieve the aesthetic coherence which one would hope for from a four or five star film.

Jerry

Sorry, but I should have paid heed to the word 'cult.' Bad camera shots, average acting and the arguments over trivia yet when the husband and wife were alone she changedcompletely. Couldn't wait for it to end. Embarrased to be British

Spillage66

It's a well made gritty realistic urban hitman picture, that sudenly turns into a pile of pretentious crap, straight out of the vomit which is The Whicker Man, (and its ilk!) There's no excuse, even by the PTS syndrome studying gazelle... it is, what it is! A half decent plot, well photographed, realistic practical effects, then, for no real reasons, apart from artistic ball locks... it turns into some ridiculous arty farty religious cult that makes no sense at all flick. (Even if you suspense belief that much that no involvement with the police or emergancy services results in people being murdered left, right and centre!!) The extras on the DVD are crap as well, especially the "making of". Which is simply a montage of visuals with a sound track blurting over it. Don't bother with it, unless you suddenly take drugs during the last fifteen minutes!

Robin

The comments by others merely illustrate how misunderstood PTS and depression are; or worse how little people are prepared to try and understand. The film is an allegory of the mental decline of Jay due to the aforementioned. It is graphic, unerving and gritty. There is nothing pretty about PTS; it can destroy even the most loved of the sufferer (hence the finale). Jay and Shel's lack of selfawareness and undertsanding of Jay's condition preclude a happy ending. Highly recommended viewing, albeit disturbing at times and inevitably sad. If you like this sort of thing then try Vahalla Rising.

Robin

The comments by others merely illustrate how misunderstood PTS and depression are; or worse how little people are prepared to try and understand. The film is an allegory of the mental decline of Jay due to the aforementioned. It is graphic, unerving and gritty. There is nothing pretty about PTS; it can destroy even the most loved of the sufferer (hence the finale). Jay and Shel's lack of selfawareness and undertsanding of Jay's condition preclude a happy ending. Highly recommended viewing, albeit disturbing at times and inevitably sad. If you like this sort of thing then try Vahalla Rising.

Spenner

This film will divide people into two groups. Those that think they under stand it and those that think they don't. Im in the latter of the two groups. Ever heard of the tale of the Emporers new clothes? Thats how I would catagorise those people who think they understand it. Isnt it funny how people rave about a film that has a few arty camera angles and a bit of quirky "gritty" banter. 44 Inch chest has the same ingredients (arguably without the same level of violence) but you understand whats going on. With this film you expect to find out whats going on, but nothing ever really gets explained. Call me old fashioned, but I like a beginning, middle and end to my films (even if they aren't in chronological order, ala Pulp Fiction) not, as this film seems to deliver, a beginning and a middle. The film gets two stars because it does deliver some good moments.

Zoe

Rubbish. Couldn't get into the film so turned it off after 35 mins! What a let down :(

Fi18fo

Some great acting and gritty drama but a completely bizarre end. Leaves a bit of a bitter taste. Would prefer not to watch a small child been stabbed to death. A better plot at the end could have made this a brilliant film. Unfortunately it's just weird.

Thomas Noctor

Boring, weird and seemed like it was made up as it went along. Awful, worst movie experience since The Road

leon thomas

for those who say the ending was rubbish and didn't make sense, can i suggest you watch it with your eyes open next time. BRILLIANT film. one of the best to come out of this country for a long time.

leon thomas

for those who say the ending was rubbish and didn't make sense, can i suggest you watch it with your eyes open next time. BRILLIANT film. one of the best to come out of this country for a long time.

nicolas korahais

one of the best films i have seen for years,absolutely terrific and a joy to watch a proper film,i have a feeling that people who dont like this film dont understand exactly whats going on within the film,open your eyes people or go watch something else which takes a lot less brain power to watch.

nicolas korahais

one of the best films i have seen for years,absolutely terrific and a joy to watch a proper film,i have a feeling that people who dont like this film dont understand exactly whats going on within the film,open your eyes people or go watch something else which takes a lot less brain power to watch.

Jim E17

Well, it has ruffled some feathers hasn't it! I thought it was great. I watched it as a study of post traumatic stress, made all the better because neither the characters, nor the audience fully understand what is happening. Which I guess is what PTS must be like. It's not perfect, there needs to be a bit more explanation of what happened in Kiev, for example, and the cut hand thing only seems to be a device. But it is so much braver than so many films, and the dialogue so sharp, and the three leading characters' performances so compelling, that the film deserves much credit.

Blaize67

Very unusual movie using commonplace premise that bends and twists into something mindbending. I disagree with the egatve crits here...thisfilm is an experience not to forget.

Simon C

I'm all for championing British film when it's worth sounding your horn, but this was just as bad as Heartless, another poorly written, short on logic mess. How is this meant to make its money back? I pity the poor investors!!

confusedfilmgoer

I can't believe what I've been reading here - no perspective or detail? Awful sound design? This film is beautifully shot with gorgeous attention to detail, and the sound design is brilliant - really adding to the tension and eeriness of the whole thing. I really enjoyed this film right up until the horrible bit where the guy gets his knee bashed in, and then it was a bit too gruesome for me. I'm also still very very confused about the plot. The acting was fantastic, though.

Dave A

Not an easy film to enjoy or even to be involved with. The sound is disastrous and this does not assist engagement but the plot is just too undeveloped and confused to engage the audience. It is simply too full of unexplained items to make any sense and it ends as "Wickerman" meets ""Kill Bill II". It started with the potential to be an interesting, if brutal film noir but it just seemed to me that Wheatley literally lost the plot and found part of another one half-way through - a pity, because it started with promise.

critique

Unusual, unpredictable and unpleasant, this starts out as domestic drama, transforms into a thriller with black comedy elements, then ends up in `Wicker Man` territory. The whole doesn`t quite work but it is memorable. Michael Smiley is excellent and disturbingly likeable as Gal.

Shawn Coombe

I felt let down by the implausible ending.The film had a decent enough premise and some good acting. But the plot doesn't really amount to much because you're going from one genre to another without ever being given a chance to suspend any disbelief. It's like 'err yeah nice try Ben Wheatley... good effort'! But where did Mr Huddleston get 5 stars from? Is he a friend of the director's, trying to champion mediocrity from the now defunct Film Council or are you just having a laugh at the reader's expense just to see what response you get back? It seems there are a few others with the same issue Time Out? Maybe I wouldn't of gone out to see the film if not for your glowing report? Who knows but thanks anyway....

Ed

First up, it's not a 5 star movie. Interesting, mixing genres, but ultimately a plot that is not smart enough. All along it is promising an Angel Heart like twist, when in the end what it gives is just a simple solution. It takes a long way to get there and the first 40 minutes are unusually slow for a horror movie. However, where it scores big points is two characters who suck you in and a story that builds to a memorable and unforgettable finale, which although you understand what is going on, is still massively disturbing.

Sutton

Interesting review and comments... and as for the film, well it was good in places, funny, extremely violent and thought provoking. Twenty four hours on I'm still thinking about it. The film is almost three movie genres rolled into one, it is watchable, apart from the excessive violence. I counted five walkouts. I wish the film was clearer in places, notably the sound, dialogue and third part. Nevertheless, an interesting bit of film making.

simon keogh

i have not done a comment before so here is my first ....and last on time out ......as per goodman comment i trusted time out with a five star and best of brittish nomination and whilst the first 2/3 were thrilling the movie plot descends into farce with the story relying on 60's occult subject matter to resolve the plot of why the killers were involved . this aspect was utterly uncompelling and beyond useless . never again tom huddleston one star for the great take on domestic dyfunction and the two males leads acting skills.

Laurence

I feel robbed. This film is beyond belief awful. Poor acting, badly shot, combined with bad editing, oh and awful sound design, it was literally like pulling teeth. The short which was shown before the film was also awful, however at these it had some pace and had the benefit of, well, being a short. I haven't felt so violated after visiting the cinema for years. It's so unbelievably bad words don't come close.

Roderick

This is far from being a 5 star film. The end is both meaningless and pretentious. The first and second thirds of the film are reasonable attempts at a well rehearsed genre the last swerve into occult dreamscape is clumsily told and edited.