Saturday, 3 September 2011

Kill List - Dir. Ben Wheatley

Routine plagues everybody’s lives, they awake, they rise, they work, they play, but when a British film comes along that not only plays into the mould of the predictability of the crime genre, but also substantially subverts it, it is certainly worth a viewing. ‘Kill List,’ director Ben Wheatley’s second feature length picture, creates a refreshing addition to a genre which has by all accounts become somewhat stale. It draws you in with conflicting characters and beautiful visuals before turning the over-exposed theme of the repentant assassin on its head and sprinkling in a few new and exciting additions that are sure to create discussion and debate between cinema-goers and critics alike.

Jay (Neil Maskell) is a father to the young Sam (Harry Simpson) and a husband to the beautiful Shel (MyAnna Buring), but their familial relationships are less than perfect. After returning from Iraq where he was a part of a security consult he has since taken up the role of local assassin with his best friend Gal (Michael Smiley). They appear professional and act indifferent, to them killing another human being is just another job. Instead of sitting in an office for nine hours, they find financial solace in placing a bullet between another person’s eyes; it’s business. But when a mysterious client (Struan Rodger) offers the men another ‘hit list’ to complete, the contract sets off a chain of events which shatters the lives of everybody involved, subsequently leading to a horrifyingly brutal final act conclusion.

To describe ‘Kill List’ as an outright horror would be doing a massive disservice to the film. It begins as a taught familial drama focusing on the strained marriage between Jay and Shel as financial problems plague the couple, before it slowly descends down the path of British crime thrillers and horror reminiscent of the Hammer films of the sixties and seventies. The constantly transforming narrative is followed by the brilliant performances from Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, they act like brothers, constantly fighting, arguing and then successfully making up over a beer or two, but when their job is the main order of business, they become cold, calculated and unpredictable. Especially Jay who has an emotional connection to the majority of villains they dispatch through his wife and his child which takes an insurmountable toll on his emotional and physical stability as the days drag on, and the contract killings keep coming.

Stylistically Laurie Rose’s intimate, close-quarters cinematography, Robin Hill’s disjointed editing and Jim Williams unsettling score all work together to represent the sporadic and disturbing portrait of two men who strive to appear as normal human beings in society, but actually reflect the abhorrent horror that many believe can only take place in dingy basements and downtrodden apartments. The graphic acts of violence perpetrated by the two men are lingered upon by the camera as the audience is slowly drawn into their jobs, and their lives beyond family and friends. While the camera most often than not utilizes close-up shots coupled with Williams score bringing the audience to the forefront of the emotional pain involved, Jay after all, first and foremost is a male in the patriarchal role who is struggling to provide for his family.

‘Kill List’ isn’t a nicely packaged film full to the brim with concrete conclusions and flawless narrative developments, but it is a film which provokes thought and discussion over the little things in life. Violence, life, family, money, employment, depravity, Ben Wheatley’s film manages to encapsulate them all whilst also providing a narrative which is guaranteed to captivate.
blog comments powered by Disqus