DIRECTOR: Ben Wheatley
WRITER: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
STARRING: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson, Michael Smiley, Emma Fryer, Struan Rodger
RELEASE DATE: US: February 3, 2012 (limited), Available on VOD now; UK: DVD l Blu-ray
Sometimes filmmakers enjoy the art of implication, and sometimes they prefer to leave entire chunks of important information unshared, both allowing for an audience (or forcing them) to use their own creative juices to come to certain conclusions. The Coen brothers, for example, are quite renowned for this very thing at the end of their movies—though performed at a master-filmmaker level—but not even they always get away with it without facing some heavy scrutiny.
For me personally, I go into a movie expecting to be told a great story. And when information is purposely withheld from said story, I can become a tad irritable. Sometimes, after multiple days and much pondering, certain films that go this route can grow on me, whereas others will only infuriate me more. But when it comes to Kill List, I can’t honestly say which side I stand on at the moment.
The movie follows Jay (Neil Maskell), a former soldier whose life is being eaten away at by financial complications and mental instability. For the sake of his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) and his son Sam (Harry Simpson), Jay decides to return to a life he had left behind as a hitman.
It ended after a job didn’t go as planned in Kiev eight months prior, but now he’s ready to re-team with his partner Gal (Michael Smiley) to take on a kill list: One job. Three kills. Big payday. But as they make their way through the list, some strange and incredibly unexpected variables come into play that severely alter Jay’s state of mind and make the job all the harder, forcing him to decide whether to continue or try and walk away before it’s too late.
The hardest thing when it comes to reviewing Kill List is that the only way I can explain most of my problems with it would be to reveal spoilers along the way. But I shan’t do such a thing, as those who ultimately decide to watch it will want to do so as cleanly as possible (which means even passing up on watching the trailer below, if you’re able to). So we’ll have to make due with what we have to work with.
A couple things I can say about the movie without spoiling anything is: it will warrant some discussion, so if you’re the kind of movie fan that likes deep films worthy of discussion and debate after you may have something worth peeking at here, and also that you can go in not expecting to understand a whole lot. Maybe it’s just because I’m American, but I could barely make out a word these actors were saying half the time they were talking. It can become something of a battle between you and the volume of your TV as you fight to make out words and struggle to lower the louder scenes. Thankfully, much like a silent film, you can still get a pretty strong idea of what’s going on even after missing out on some words. This shouldn’t be a problem for those who get to check it out on DVD or Blu=ray.
As mentioned above, I’m someone who strongly dislikes being told a story that leaves out important details, and Kill List is a blatant offender. Some things happen during the movie that will pique your interest strongly, yet very little is offered as an explanation for these things. Some movie fans adore this approach as it opens doors for their own interpretations, but I feel a little ripped off when a movie asks me to do the work it’s supposed to do and determine for myself the all-important question of “what does it all mean?”
That said, there’s still enough going on and a shocking enough ending where I was still very much intrigued by what had unfolded before my eyes. It made me think after seeing it, and I’m still thinking about it today…which must be a good sign. But if there are gaps in the story so unattended and blank than even your own deep pondering can’t get very close to some semblance of an answer, is it even worth watching to begin with?
Sadly, I do not have an answer for you.
There was a lot of things I very much liked about Kill List: it has a bit of a Nicolas Winding Refn vibe to it with some of the most brutally violent imagery I’ve ever seen put to film, and it even jumps genres faster than you ever expect it to, going from a drama to an action flick to a horror movie (yes, a horror!). But ultimately, for me anyway, there’s far too many things that I feel like I absolutely needed more answers to and did not get. With just a tad more information, this movie could have been an incredibly dark and pleasantly surprising film to watch, but as it sits it is only something of enigma, made to madden you with confusing contemplation.
Still, I can’t deter you from watching or not. In fact I encourage most (whom are strong of stomach and mind) to watch it themselves and see what they draw from it. Some will surely enjoy it for what it is while others will have just as many questions as I…if not more.