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*~*~*~FILM ONLY REVIEW~*~*~*
~ The Kill List ~
This film was released in 2011 and it has a 18 certificate. It was directed by Ben Wheatley, who isn't a director I'd ever heard of before. He has only directed four other films, all of which aren't the best known or most popular in my opinion and having seen a couple of his other films (Down Terrace and A Field in England) I would definitely say that The Kill List is the best film he's directed. The film has got a mix of genres - it's a crime, thriller, horror film. It is a British film and it was filmed in Sheffield. I think this is one of the best british horrors that I have seen which is mainly thanks to the lead actors. The film budget was quite low compared to other films which often have a budget of several million pounds - at £500,000 the budget was comparatively small,however without sounding mean I don't really get how they managed to spend that much because there really isn't a huge amount of special effects, impressive actions scenes or CGI etc. The way the film is shot is just average, it isn't anything special with any special filters or anything like that. The film has a run time of 95 minutes so its quite a long one but it did keep me hooked so I never felt bored or wanted it to just end. The film has got a 6.2/10 stars on a well known film review site and the language spoken in the film is English, however a subtitled Swedish version is also available.
~ Why I Watched This Film ~
The kill list is a film that I had heard of quite a few times over the past couple of years. I remember one of my friends telling me about how much they enjoyed it and how it was a must-see film, but the name and plot of it put me off - anything with people getting killed or gore doesn't really appeal to me much and so I never bothered watching it.I ended up eventually watching it a couple of weeks ago as I was channel surfing and saw that it was on one of the tv channels, and seeing as there was nothing else on I thought I'd give it a go. The film didn't take very long to get going which is why I continued watching it despite not being a fan of gore and violence - there was nothing else on TV and so this is the main reason why I watched it but also mainly because I was curious about how good it actually was.
~ The Actors ~
There are a few faces in this film that I recognised, the first one being Neil Maskell. I love this guy! He's old enough to be my dad but embarrassingly I find him really oddly attractive and he always plays the psycho bad boys so he played the character he played really well. He was so believable as ex-soldier/hitman gangster Jay, and I never felt like cringing when he was delivering his lines. I loved watching him on screen and although he played a very bad guy, I felt sympathy for him when things went wrong and I found that my feelings were kind of mixed as to whether I should love or hate him. Another lead actor in this is Michael Smiley, who plays Gal. I know I've definitely heard the name before but I can't quite recall ever seeing him in any other films, though he has been in quite a few from looking at his film discography on wiki. The only other actor, well actress, that I recognised in the film was Emma Fryer, who has been in a few comedy shows like ideal and the phone shop. Becuase I'm used to seeing her in comedy shows it felt a bit strange watching her play a bit of a mysterious nutter, and her acting certainly wasn't as strong as the other two leads but nevertheless she played her character (Shell) pretty well and although some of the lines that she delivered were a little on the 'reading straight from the script' side, I never felt like the acting was so bad that I couldn't enjoy the film.
My film is a film only review as I watched it on television, however the retail price for this film in DVD format is around £7.50. I would considering buying this in DVD format if the price was a lot lower, but I wouldn't pay the RRP. The reason I'd buy this in DVD format is because its the type of film that needs to be watched several times in detail to fully understand it and work out what is actually going on. I ended up just reading some articles about the ending and people's interpretations about it though as I couldn't really be bothered watching it all over again.
~What's The Film About? ~
Jay and Gal are best friends who used to be in the army together. In need of extra cash to provide for their families, they decide to dabble in some very dodgy dealings. This involves murdering three people who are named on a list. The film sound astraight forward and a little generic really doesn't it? But then it kind of transforms into a completely different film crammed full of weirdness and mystery.
~ My Opinion ~
I really didn't think that I'd enjoy this film. I was expecting a film full of hitmen gangsters with over the top cockney accents, bad acting and lots of slapstick violence, so I was pleasantly suprised and proved completely wrong. One thing that I initially thought though was the plot could be a bit insulting to ex soldiers, because I thought that the film kind of insinuates that war leaves people with no morals, no emotions etc but now after seeing the ending I kind of get why they included the war/ex soldier backstory. From the moment the film started I found it easy to get into, it moved pretty quickly and was easy to follow at first as there is a small number of characters in it at first so there's no confusion over who is who. As the plot progresses though more characters are introduced and although at first I still found it easy to keep track of I got a little confused after a while. The film has got a not so unique story in that the people who the hitmen are killing are all bad people, and I have to admit although I could see it was obvious that Gal and Jay were messed up in the head, I didn't see them as monsters because the people they were killing were actually worse people than them.I also found the killings, although extremely graphic and disturbing intriguing becuase in the dialogue each of the people who are being killed thank the killers and weirdly look up to them (Jay in particular).
It's beyond creepy but it all adds up in the end and makes sense. The murder scenes, I'm not gonna lie, are brutal. Unlike in many other films, the camera always stays focused on the person being killed rather than switching to another scene. I was shocked by this to be honest, especially one particular scene, I found it extremely gory and I felt sick as the special effects were incredibly realistic. There are several deaths and murders in this film as well as the usual 'main characters running away from looney people' but what makes it different is that there is a real mystery to the film and the bad guys almost turn into the good guys by the end of it. The ending of this film was confusing and un-expected. I have to admit, I didn't get the ending at first and had to really think about who was in on the whole thing, which characters were actually the good ones and which weren't, if jay was in the know all along but was trying to ignore his fate, if gal was really his friend after all and so on. But the overall meaning on the ending really made me think. I won't say how it ends, but it involves the anti-Christ!
~ All In All ~
This is a disturbing film, and I wouldn't recommend it if you have a weak stomach! It is however really gripping as there's an air of mystery throughout, and the story is told well. The twist at the end is thought provoking (and slightly confusing!) and the acting although not perfect throughout is saved by Neil Maskell with his incredible performance as Jay.
Four out of five stars,
The Kill List
Never have my views on a movie been so mixed and aplenty. 'The Kill List' is a 2011 movie release by the director Ben Wheatley. It stars relatively unknown British actors who were encouraged to adlib a lot of their scenes.
This movie really does split opinion and the general movie goer or Hollywood fan will think it a crass pile of garbage. The more serious movie buff or horror fan will try to ham it up and tag it as a classic, just in case it really does reach cult status and they can travel around their friends telling them how right they were about it. True fans of independent film and alternative movies will have mixed opinions. It could well go down as a cult hit and it does have its moments in that it is well directed and well thought out, but on the other hand it is a mish-mash of genres and it is hard to fit it into any single category. The story is so ambiguous that it can't be taking itself seriously, surely? The acting, while intense, is also very wooden at times and adds to the whole dreariness of the storyline. The soundtrack is one of the most God-awful things I have ever heard and I could not warm to the actors; especially Neil Maskell who plays 'Jay' in the lead role. I'm sure Mr Maskell is a nice guy in real life and the fact that I couldn't stand him in the movie is probably testament to his acting skills as the viewer is not meant to like him, but I couldn't help feeling that he was going to don a football scarf at any moment and go looking for some rival fans to fight. He had that cheeky Cockney bloke vibe about him. Anyway, before I delve any deeper into the overall analysis, let's take a look at the plot.
Jay (Neil Maskell) has been living like royalty but tensions have built between him and his Swedish wife, Shel (Myanna Buring) because he thinks she has spent all their money or at least forty thousand over the last few months. It turns out that Jay is a hit man and while on an assignment in Kiev eight months previous with his best friend Gal (Michael Smiley), something bad happened. Jay has not taken on any new contracts for eight months and when Gal comes around with his new girlfriend for dinner one night, he tells Jay that they have a new job offer to kill three people for a substantial amount of money. Jay loses his temper in front of the guests and argues openly with his wife while Gal tends to the couples seven year old son, Sam.
They take on a job to kill a priest, a librarian and a politician or MP to be more specific. The first job is pretty simple but as Jay goes to pull the trigger, he asks the priest to turn round and the priest tanks him politely before Jay shoot him in the back of the head. The librarian is a sadist and a paedophile and he also thanks Jay for killing him. Jay is spiralling out of control and is side tracked after learning another pervert's name. It is a night of violence and brutal bloodshed.
The MP will turn out to be a much tougher proposition and Jay and Gal will become exposed to something sinister, something evil and something that neither of them could ever have expected.
I could potentially talk about my theory to this movie for quite a while but the problem with that is that I would have to give away, the plot, the ending and spoil it for those who want to watch it. So I will refrain from doing so and just give my opinions on the stuff about the movie that I can talk about. I have my own theory and it is pretty straight forward but a lot of people have apparently struggled with the plot. I can certainly understand why as it is, as I alluded to earlier, quite a mix-up of genres, which struggles to decide on what it actually wants to be. It initially starts out as an obviously loosely scripted relationship story that obviously has some story beyond it, which we will find out about. This then opens out into the world of the hit man and the crime genre.
After a few unsettling scenes of exploitation and gory juxtaposition, we are suddenly thrown into a movie akin to the old Hammer witchcraft movies, very similar to 'The Wicker Man' in feel, although it has a slightly different slant on story.
Neil Maskell plays the part of Jay well but I don't feel any connection with him at all and although I can see that Jay obviously has lots of issues mentally, I just don't believe in him enough. The arguments between Jay and Shel are very realistic and this is due to the fact that it hasn't been learnt from a script. You can tell the actors have given it some thought and then proceeded to tear lumps out of each other. It works because it is virtually real in that they can make it up as they go along. The movie suffers too because of this as it sometimes feels like it is going nowhere. I almost got the feeling that the director shouted cut at one stage and told everyone to hang fire while he went away and thought about what they should do next.
I was very close to switching this off after an hour out of sheer boredom but once the slight twist started at the end I felt I had to watch just to see the outcome. This is usually a sign that a movie is actually better then you first thought, but for me, in this case, I was just curious as to how much more the movie could change its central story without totally collapsing in on itself.
Some of the bloodier scenes in the movie are quite gruesome and Mr Maskell must have had to visit a very dark place inside him to warm up for the scenes. He punches a guy in a chair senseless and burns him with a cigarette before proceeding to smash his kneecaps in with a hammer. This isn't enough for Jay though so he smashes the guy's fingers with the hammer, which we see graphically and then repeatedly smashes his head in with the said tool. This scene is rather graphic and not one for the squeamish. It reminds me of the old 'B' movie efforts of the nineteen-eighties, although to give it some credit, the direction and acting performances do place it above that level of movie, but still leave it short of the classics in that genre.
Once you have thought about the movie afterwards it is quite easy to put together the plot when you piece things together. The only problem with that is that if you try and do that during the movie you end up tying yourself in knots. I feel however, that it is not really that difficult to understand but perhaps I just get it. Getting it is one thing, liking it is another story. I have to say that over all it is not a very likeable movie, but it is different, so I'll give it kudos for that. I wouldn't choose to watch it again and the characters left me feeling a little non-plussed and I couldn't really be bothered whether they died, lived or started eating grass and sprouting horns.
I mentioned earlier that the soundtrack was awful and to be fair to Jim Williams (I don't think he is any relation to John) he didn't really have a lot to work with. That said, it really didn't appeal to me at all. I have mentioned the vomit inducing soundtrack from the French movie 'Irreversible' in past reviews and I think this rivals it as one of the worst soundtracks in film.
Overall I wouldn't really recommend this movie to anyone but devout independent horror movie lovers. If you're a mainstream film fan then stay away altogether.
I don't want to dumb this movie down totally as I can see it garnering a cult following and being part of forums who take great pleasure in dissecting it. I also hate totally trashing a movie because no matter what I think or how badly it is perceived I always respect the fact that someone has worked really hard on it and to them it has been the focus of their passion for a year or more in many cases. The movie has been touted for numerous awards and was up for British movie of the year. I can see the reasoning behind this for the simple fact that the movie is different and the director and cast have a had a damn good go at creating something unique.
The standard region 2 DVD contains commentary with Director Ben Wheatley and Writer Amy Jump.
Commentary with Actors Neil Maskell, Myanna Buring and Michael Smiley .
The making Of Kill List .
Interview with Director Ben Wheatley.
Interview with Neil Maskell and Myanna Buring and Interviews with Claire Jones and Andrew Starke.
More than any other film I've seen recently, Kill List is a film that focuses on having three distinct acts. It opens up as a rather mundane domestic drama about a married couple, struggling with financial problems and arguing aggressively. The story takes a darker turn when the husband takes up a job with a former partner to fulfil a Kill List - a list of names their mysterious employers provide them with, whom they must eliminate. It is here that the film launches into the second act - a thrilling and gritty crime drama and then the third act shockingly reveals itself in the final 15 minutes twisting the genre on its head.
This is one of those films that slipped under the radar somewhat, despite great praise from critics and 5-star reviews, but to get people to pay attention to it, some of the key plot details were teased out. For example, I was aware that the film had a horror-style twist, which alerted me to some of the more peculiar moments. The best way to experience this film would be to go in blind, as the change of gears as the film switches genres is better experienced without prior knowledge.
For a low-budget British film, it didn't particularly feel low-budget. Some of the more violent set-pieces were orchestrated so deftly that one sequence had me confused to how they pulled it off without actually hammering an actor's head in. The actors improvised some of the lines during the film, something which adds to the realism of the scenes and shows spontaneous reactions to each other, which works much better than following a script in some places.
The performances by the lead actors are particularly strong with Neil Maskell putting in a great turn as Jay, the affected former soldier with a temper, and Michael Smiley as his more chipper partner, Gal. The two female leads are also really well-acted with Myanna Buring as Shel, Jay's wife, who pressures him to find work.
This is a film that deserves a second viewing to catch the subtle foreshadowing of the traumatic events in the final act. The film is bold in that it doesn't fill in all the blanks it leaves behind - the ending and the motivations behind the Kill List can vary from theorist to theorist, leaving a sense of personal interpretation to the movie, making it stick longer in your mind than most.
For a horror movie, it never quite hits the scary note and while some moments are chilling and creepy, it doesn't fully qualify as a horror to me. The sequence in the tunnels could have been more effective with some better lighting, as what should have been a thrilling chase to safety resembled a chaotic jog in relative darkness. However, there were some genuinely creepy moments during the third act leading up to the bizarre climax. It reminded me of Silent Hill in places with the inhuman noises coming out of the enemies of the piece.
I would recommend this to people who like independent British cinema and a mish-mash of genres. It reminds me of some of the Japanese/Korean movies from the last decade where the film takes a complete twist into a totally different genre from its beginnings. To list specific films that influenced the director would venture in the area of spoiler terrority but keen horror-fans will notice familiar beats to classic British horror movies of the past.
Run Time 95 minutes
Certificate - 18R
Genre - Horror
Country - UK
Blockbuster's Rental - £2.99 per night
So Kill List, the much anticipated British horror thriller from up and coming directing talent Ben Wheately, he who earned quite a few pats on the back from the critics for his debut feature 'Down Terrance', a gritty British gangster film that pulled no punches - and broke some skulls and plucked some eyeballs....Kill List definitely in the same gruesome and earthy style.
I was really looking forward to this, reminding me of the time when I was first pointed towards Dead Mans Shoes and Sexy Beast by some excellent dooyoo film writers, the only way to find out about great movies you wouldn't necessarily know about, two crackers from the last decade that suggested British horror and crime movies had escaped the grim Lottery funded years of the 1990s with junk like Rancid Aluminum and Circus the norm. I'm not saying Kill List is up there with the likes of Shane Meadows and Jonathan Glazer's classics but its not half bad, violent and sadistic stuff with an enigmatic twist. It lacks the cool and quotable dialogue of the above two films and so Wheately, somewhat refreshingly, not trying to be Tarantino but has the above directors freshness and unexpectedness, the first time I can remember a moody British crime thriller suddenly becoming a traditional horror movie, a wonderfully surreal treat. Anything smart added to the horror genre has to be welcomed, Hollywood diluting it into a dumb squashy mush year-on-year.
Neil Maskell ... Jay
MyAnna Buring ... Shel
Harry Simpson ... Sam
Michael Smiley ... Gal
Emma Fryer ... Fiona
Struan Rodger ... The Client
Jay (Neil Maskell), a cockney blue-collar serial killer, lives well in a six bedroom house in the suburbs with a beautiful wife (MyAnna Buring) and kid (Harry Simpson), a second home in the country when it all gets to much, but kicking around in the house after bungling a job in Kiev. We don't know what the job was or what went wrong but it's been six months since his last target, Jay riddled with anxiety and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as you would. But the wife is nagging him over money worries and so he and his partner in crime Gal (Michael Smiley), both ex soldiers from their Northern Ireland days, agree to take a job, the client (Struan Rodger) giving them a kill list of multiple names with a week to do the job.
Kill one is a priest, the suggestion pedophilia, Jay screwing on the silencer and the victim soon hacked up and dumped in a bin liner after taking a bullet between the eyes in the vestry, Jay enjoying the kill more when he thinks the victim deserves it. He has kids after all. But just before he shot him the priest seemed serene and aware of him, expecting to die, almost awaiting this moment for his sins as they lock eyes in a mirror, Jays conscious looking back at him.
Kill two is another pervert, a pattern forming, again the victim expecting his fete and egging Jay on to do the deed and be as nasty as possible, Jay in agreement and pulling out his best claw hammer, and assault that will put you off your tea.
But kill three is much tougher, a Tory politician who lives in a country pile in the sticks, which will take more planning. But things take a strange turn for the worst when Gals girlfriend Fiona (Emma Fryer) introduces an occult element to proceedings as the film careers off in a completely different direction, our hit man increasingly wound up and violent and being tested by all those around him and the new dimension to the story. He wants out as the job gets more surreal but there's no chance of that, this one his destiny in some way, testing his madness and need to kill, Jay not who he thinks he is anymore...not in control....
Jesus person in a restaurant playing a guitar: "Sometimes Gods message is hard to swallow"
Jay "So is a f**kig dinner plate mate"
Ok, it wasn't quite the amazing film I was expecting but isn't half bad folks, definitely not for kids, violent and dark stuff. But it is a slow burner so you must stick with it. But once through the gears I just love the way it does a handbrake turn and screeches from innocuous crime thriller to something far nastier, and then some, ending up in Hammer House territory.....In Bruges meets Dance with the Devil.
Neil Maskell's character is the clincher, multilayered and intriguing, a great idea to have a hired killer that is very ordinary and looks and acts like you and me - watches Eastenders, shops in Tesco's and buys scratch cards, how sociopaths blend into suburbia, one presumes. As most 'squaddies' are legal killing machines anyway then why wouldn't they become hired guns thereafter? Too many Hollywood films paint these guys and girls as aloof and careful characters that live alone in swanky OCD clean apartments and kill with guile so never traced, the wages always deposited in secret bank accounts. Jay, on the other hand, is a family man with kids, storing his Heckler & Koch machine guns in the garage with the kid's toys and golf clubs and the bullets in the coffee jar.
The budget didn't increase much for this one, £500,000 this time around. But Wheately makes every penny work for him by keeping things simple and non pretentious on the look and dialogue. When Jay and Gal go to do the deed they don't worry about CCTV cameras and balaclavas, the less suspicious they are the more likely not to attract attention. It's that sensible detail that makes this work. It's why Sexy Beast and Dead Mans Shoes worked. The less defined we are from characters in these movies the more they work for us as they move from one twisted reality to another. If you were a hit man in Britain you wouldn't be able to afford those rubber sucker things you put on your hands and feet and climb up skyscrapers with. You would just beat the person senseless with a golf club in a dark corner of the local park when they are walking their dog.
Kill List will appeal to adults of all ages and social classes but its all in the nuance if you want the full hit. If you looked at it objectively you're not going to be overwhelmed by it but if you judge it against convention then there is more going on here. Do the family really know what Jay's job is and who he really is and so complicit in it all? Where is this film taking me and how sadistic and strange is it going to get? At no point is the director going to patronize you by helping you along that hand rail with that plot ambiguity, the deliciously open ending posing more questions than it answers. I love movies where the director leaves it totally up to the viewers to interpret his work and that is certainly the case here, the confusion adding disquiet. With a soundtrack that cranks up the threat and lead performances worryingly normal its a film that drags out the feeling that being a serial killer is like any other job and dares to explore the idea that getting rid of life's monsters with such nonchalance may not be a bad idea...
Have a look at the trailer below and see what you think. This is a movie you need to see. As the great Kim Newman says: "this film elevates Ben Wheately from Kill List to A-List"
Imdb.com - 6.3 out of 10.0(3,743)
Rottentomatos.com - 79% critic's approval (users 60%)
Daily Telegraph - "The less you know in advance, the more potent the feeling of being shoved head-first down a rabbit hole. What's waiting at the end isn't a bunny - it's hideous".
Time Out - "Allow the film to take hold and its power is inescapable: the effect is like placing your head in a vice and waiting as it inexorably closes".
The Guardian - "As far as British horror goes right now, Kill List is pretty much top of the range"
Filmcritic.com -"Pulp Fiction without the flowery dialogue".
The Independent - "An equally intriguing and frustrating cinematic experience...
---Audio Commentary: Two versions---
#1 - The bearded Ben Wheately with food in that beard talks us though his movie.
#2 - Cast & Crew talk us through the movie.
-- The Making of Kill List--
Nothing special but horror film fans will no doubt be hooked on what this guy has to say.
Cast and crew talking heads.