Movie Review – Kill List (2011)

Kill List (2011) is an overall impressive piece of British horror directed by Ben Wheatley that almost feels like three different movies. The film’s first act focuses on the marital troubles of Jay (Neil Maskell), who hasn’t worked in eight months. The financial strains are causing him and his wife to squabble as his young son tries to understand it all. Jay at first appears meek and docile but we soon discover he’s a former hitman with a nasty violent streak, and being in need of money it isn’t long before he teams back up with his partner and best friend Gal (Michael Smiley) for a few more contract kills. This turns the film in its next act into a twisted buddy road trip that is as wonderfully filmed and acted as it is brutal, particularly a certain hammer scene.

Of course, things aren’t what they seem and either Jay’s sanity is slipping or something more is going on. The final act is strongly reminiscent of The Wicker Man (1974) with the revelation of occult machinations and, for me at least, the film here feels too divorced from what came before, both in terms of quality and plausibility. The final shots leave more questions than answers, and I was ultimately underwhelmed and dissatisfied with where the story went. I can see where the seeds were planted for the final twist, and while I respect the effort the narrative lost a lot of its impact on me.

Nevertheless, this is all very subjective and I acknowledge that many, if not most, will disagree with me, and I can certainly see why some would really find the ending effective. I still strongly recommend Kill List as there is some undeniably good filmmaking to be found throughout.

Grade: C+