Ben Wheatley’s Kill List finds a troubled hit man and his partner returning to work after a lengthy hiatus. They are hired by a member of the criminal underworld to take out three targets. The first two prove simple enough but the third target poses a very unique challenge for the hired guns. The more immersed they become in the job, the greater the danger they are confronted with.
Ben Wheatley (Sightseers) co-writes and directs this shocking and stylistic horror film. His script is smartly paced, opting for the slow burn approach; it builds to a grand and ultimately terrifying finale. Prior to the final fifteen minutes of the film, Kill List could be a dramatic character study but the final scenes play out with a vengeance and the viewer’s patience is rewarded. Wheatley’s script creates characters that are likable and easy to relate to: They are flawed, they have marital problems, and they are suffering through an economic recession. Jay (Neil Maskell – Basic Instinct 2) the primary protagonist (or maybe antihero) is afraid to get back in the saddle after a botched job in Kiev and he is the kind of character that most audience remembers can relate to. Even though he is an assassin, he is still written as a character that most people can see some of themselves in. Jay’s partner Gal (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) is well cast also. He provides some much needed comedic dialogue to break up the intensity from time to time.
As for Ben Wheatley’s background, he had primarily worked in television prior to his segue into feature films with Kill List. His transition is seamless. He creates a horror film with characters that we empathize with and care about. Because of that, the ending is so much more jarring than it would have been with characters we didn’t care about.
Kill List is a film that you need to watch more than once. The shock of the ending is so severe that it makes it difficult for the viewer to really process what they have just seen. I didn’t fully appreciate Kill List until I saw it for a second time. I was able to digest it and come out with a new appreciation for the film after giving it a second go.
There is very little gore until the final fifteen minutes of Kill List unfold. But what transpires during that time more than makes up for any lack of onscreen bloodshed in the first two acts. The conclusion is fast paced, startling, and will take some time to mull over for most viewers.
There is an exceptional amount of non-sexualized nudity in the finale. There are characters parading around in absolutely nothing but it is not intended to be stimulating. It is key to the plot structure and not exploitative.
A word of advice to anyone that hasn’t seen the film: Turn on the subtitles. That’s not something I have ever done with an English language feature before but the accents the characters speak in are so thick that it’s almost impossible to catch everything that they are saying. I had a really hard time understanding what was being said the first time I watched this movie. And if the viewer cannot understand what’s being said, they are likely to miss out on important details. The strong accents are further compounded by some of the slang terms the characters use. Most American viewers will likely have an easier time understanding what is being said with the benefit of subtitles.
If you haven’t seen Kill List it is available on DVD from IFC and as of this posting, it is also being offered through Netflix’s streaming platform. If you haven’t gotten around to checking this one out, it is a very well made film with a no holds barred finale and a very likable cast. Definitely give this one a look. For another perspective, check out our original review of this film here.
Director(s): Ben Wheatley
Writer(s): Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Stars: Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley
Studio/ Production Co: Rook Films, IFC
Length: 95 Minutes