Total Pageviews

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kill List

There is a stunning sense of dread that permeates every frame of Kill List. It is unfair to call the film an outright horror - although things do get mighty horrific, building steadily to more disturbing happenings; the film rather, is it's own thing completely. It's own curious oddity. That underlying tension throughout proceedings helps subvert genre. Parts gritty drama, hit-man thriller and buddy comedy, the film is every bit as original as you might expect from such a blend. Taking such stale staples of cinema as it's starting point, Kill List then uses them to mould an increasingly bizarre, violent and disturbing tale and is one that come it's end, will leave a cold grasp on you. In fact that is perhaps where the film may get it's true power from; in letting some of it's more subtler character beats and plot developments mature in your head, you realise just what director Ben Wheatley and his cast have crafted. This is a film that makes you work for it and you will only get out what you put in. But if you're prepared to go the distance - and Kill List goes to some pretty dark places, then you will have one of the more original hard hitting films this year. Somewhat unfairly, the film has been proclaimed to almost 'instant classic' status by some reviewers; a move that while it will surely help it's box office, can only leave most somewhat underwhelmed by such a high benchmark. Not to say the film isn't good enough, rather it would seem that the film is simply too small for the masses. This is something that works best as a more cult finding. Those who discover it knowing as little as possible will be those whom the film works best on. I would even go so far to suggest not even reading this review for fear of only adding to the hype machine, but I digress......

Focusing on the minutiae of British suburban life, we open on Jay (Neil Maskell) and wife Shel (MyAnna Buring). Locked in a passionately violent marriage, the stress of bills and mortgages are taking their toll as their young son Sam (Harry Simpson) watches on helplessly. So far, so regular, until we discover Jay has the far from regular job as a hit-man. Eight months after what seems a disastrous job in Kiev, Jay reluctantly takes on another job with cohort and best mate Gal (an excellent Michael Smiley): the titular list. Of course in films, that 'one last job' is never a good idea and pretty soon, the two find themselves in increasingly murky territory as each hit on their list leads them down darker alleys. The cast are all uniformly excellent. Wheatley and the cast spent almost as much time improvising various takes as with scripted material and the result is incredibly effective. Maskell and Buring's relationship is painfully conveyed to almost too realistic effect. A couple that bicker and fight, only to make up seconds later; it is obvious to everyone but them, that they should not be together. At the heart of things however, is Jay and Gal. As the two embark on their murderous road trip, they paint a memorable couple. Killers with their own set of moral codes; they are fiercely loyal to each other. The two actors do a fine job in making the audience believe the bond between the two. Their core relationship also leads to some of the more wittier moments; never too far off it seems and perfectly breaking up all that tension and misery in between. However, as the List becomes unofficially longer, and the boys realise they are in over their heads there is only more and more unresolved questions stacking up. Who exactly is the man who hired the guys in the first place? Why do Jay's targets continually thank him before each murder? What exactly is that mysterious symbol scribbled on the back of the mirror in Jay's bathroom? All and none of these questions are answered. Mystery surrounds every corner of Wheatley's story and while he may not give a solid answer to any of them, you can rest assured that he has provided enough hints prior to let you connect the dots. It is also safe to say a second viewing will be almost as enlightening as the first, and help clear up some of the mystery. Throughout, Wheatley effortlessly builds tension. Though not much at all may be happening, there is a sea of violence just waiting to explode at any time. All this is only built on by the films atmospheric soundscapes, breathing deep unease into the images. Overall the film is an incredibly peculiar chiller. Not outright horror, drama or crime/thriller, it is hard to categorise.  Instead of this being a hurdle, the film uses this confusion to build a very original and disturbing tale, although definitely not for everybody. If you let the film work on you, by the time the lights come up you may be shocked, confused and just a little bewildered, but no less stunned. But don't listen to me, you're better off taking the film on it's own merits and finding out for yourself.

Verdict: 8/10
A frequently disturbing and odd film that effortlessly blends genres to stunning effect. Some will bemoan the lack of cohesion come it's end, but everyone else will be taken on a very uneasy and murky ride through the underside of British suburbia. Darkly comic and very unsettling, it is an experience you might not be able to shake soon after.

"Kill List" Trailer

No comments:

Post a Comment