Kill List

Art & Culture

You may think you’ve seen enough hitman films to last you a lifetime, but trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This UK thriller/horror movie about 2 men who kill people for a living is the bee’s knees.

It starts off as a domestic drama. Jay and Shel (man and wife) live with son Sammy in suburban comfort. But all is not well. They’ve run out of money because he hasn’t worked in 8 months. She calls home (Sweden) to complain about life. They fight, physically as well as emotionally. Sam is worried they’ll split up. Enter the charming unshaven Gal, Jay’s long time friend and business partner, along with a new girlfriend, Fiona. Gal wants Jay to take on a new job with him, and so does Shel. Despite his reluctance, Jay will sign up. He has no choice.

And so the two friends embark on their familiar routine, loading the car with weapons, signing into anonymous hotels, and following their target prior to bumping them off. It’s unglamorous, unsexy, mundane, and mostly violent. But the film continues to keep its focus on the relationship between the two men, as it has done previously between husband and wife and son. We know something unsettling is going on – apart from the residual clues, the soundtrack (excellent) tells us that we are not in the world of Hollywood cool. Rather this is terra incognita, where there be monsters – but literal or metaphorical, that’s the question.

I was riveted by this film from start to finish, with my only quibble being the fact that at the end of all our searching, I was none the wiser as to why it all happened. On the other hand, explanations are often an anti climax, so maybe not knowing what it all meant is just as good or better. On the plus side, everything else is terrific. The cast are superb, completely believable as complex and ordinary people; the direction is constantly innovative and edgy, keeping us on the edge of uncertainty, but always intrigued by what is happening, and where we are going. This is Ben Wheatley’s second feature after Down Terrace, and a big step forward. He has a particular skill at offering little irrelevant details – of landscape, traffic, buildings – that have no individual significance but are part of the overall effect that he creates.

There are ways in which it reminds me of last year’s Skeletons – two odd but everyday blokes doing odd but everyday things – although this is a lot more violent and scary. But the best thing about it is that it takes a genre that has been done to death with cliches and stereotypes for years, and comes up with something fresh and startling. It falls somewhere between arthouse and multiplex in terms of audience, but if you do get a chance to see it (and have the stomach), then do so. It is excellent.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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