Kill List (2011) Poster

(2011)

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4/10
The best of films, the worst of films
BJBatimdb9 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Kill List is totally brilliant - and absolute rubbish. More specifically, the first 75% of the movie is fantastic - sharply written, wonderfully acted, supremely directed, and filled with tension and realism.

And then it all goes wrong.

I'd heard a few reviews of this film before choosing to see it, and it irks me that not one of them revealed that the last quarter of The Kill List is so divorced from the first that it's like watching a different film altogether. It reminded me of Charlie Kaufman's brilliant Adaptation, where the lead character's idiot brother suddenly steps in to finish the movie. Hilarious in that case - mystifying in this.

Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump start by crafting a stunning examination of the family life of a suburban hit-man that makes The Sopranos look glitzy. Neil Maskell is unnerving as Jay, whose long hiatus from 'work' has led to constant fighting with his wife. Their son witnesses the discord, and the tension and humanity is palpable.

Then Jay is drawn back into doing a well-paid job by his old crony, Gal, and the plot starts to thicken. Gradually the low-key family realism gives way to a realism of a far nastier kind, coupled with sudden moments of real mystery and total surprise.

Wheatley layers the non-action with skill, and really knows how to ratchet up the intrigue. The three main characters are all very good, and even the smaller roles of the son and girlfriend are well played and brilliantly written. You get the feeling you are watching something very special unfold on screen, with no indication of how it will all be resolved. I am a hardened end-guesser and am often right, but with this movie I had NO IDEA where it was going, which is exciting and rare.

However, just as I was preparing for a stunning denouement with all the seemingly-impossible ends tied up, The Kill List turned an ankle and tripped into a ditch full of dung.

O. M. G.

I'm not into writing spoilers - even when the filmmakers have done more spoiling than I ever could in this case. Suffice to say that 'and then he woke up and it was all a dream' would have been a more credible ending, and would at least have made sense of SOME of the set up, instead of none of it at all.

If there was ever a progression of narrative here, it is lying somewhere on a cutting room floor, crying its eyes out at the wasted opportunity.

When the credits came up, there was a stunned silence in the packed cinema and someone turned to his mate and said:'That's the last time YOU choose the effing film'. Judging by the snorts of sympathetic laughter it caused, I'd say it was the best review I'd heard of The Kill List.

I've never been so disappointed by a film that promised so much.
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9/10
As many have said, this is a hard movie to appreciate.
Tehmeh27 August 2013
To me, this is an absolute gem. Watched it on Netflix, just because I had nothing better to do. I didn't know anything about this beforehand - and that's the way this is meant to be watched. I was captivated, baffled, horrified and never did I guess what is going to happen next, not once. There are more or less subtle hints throughout the movie that not only shed some light on the bizarre ending but also keep building that disturbing mood that grows stronger and stronger as the movie progresses.

Why this is a hard film, for many, to watch:

  • It is extremely violent. This is not gore for gore's sake, this is brutal, dark and realistic violence that adds to the disturbing mood this movie sets. This is not enjoyable violence, this is gripping and shocking violence.


  • It gradually changes its tone from a crime story to something surreal, disturbing and mysterious. I loved that, the movie surprised me. The tonal shift won't please everyone.


  • The final act is bizarre and certainly does not clearly explain itself. While I was shocked and wanted to have more answers, I really thought that if a movie needs to have an ambiguous ending, this is the way you do it. There are hints along the way, but nothing is too clear or spoon-fed. For many, the ending is a dealbreaker or seals the deal. I loved this movie already before the final act, but there's no denying how powerful the ending is. Also, I'd like to say that there's so much quality in this movie that I really don't think the somewhat open ending is a product of lazy writing. I think it's the product of careful, genuinely good filmmaking.


The acting is phenomenal. Damn you Brits, you really sometimes surprise me. The characters feel like real people. Handling of music, cinematography, editing...you really can see how well this movie is crafted, seems like nothing is rushed or forced and many things are definitely missed on the first viewing. This might look like a cheap, unambitious film at first, but I really think it's quite the opposite. This is, in my mind, an intelligent film. Not a slasher, but an intelligent, shocking story.

This is a hard movie. Hard to watch because of the brutality, hard to totally comprehend because of the ambiguity. But it got me. I was thrilled all the way to the end. Possibly the most disturbing movie I've seen in years, and I've seen a lot of questionable stuff. I don't remember having such an emotional response to a movie for a long, long time. I don't know if I'm going to see it again, because it really disturbed me so much. But I know this: I was captivated, thoroughly at the mercy of this movie, and it didn't let me go.

If you like weird thrillers, check this one out. There's some serious quality and effort here.
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8/10
One of the Creepiest, Most Disturbing Films I Have Seen in a Long Time
soncoman14 March 2012
It's been a while since I've seen a film that both attracted and repulsed me. "Kill List" has managed to do just that.

It's a difficult film to describe. Suffice it to say, it's been tagged a horror film and that the "similar" films referenced in other reviews give too much away. Let me just attempt to give you some idea of what you might experience if you choose to take a chance and seek out this film.

Before I begin, it must be said that this is a British film, and some of the accents are thicker than the Great Grimpen Mire. Sit back, and let your ears adjust.

The first third of the film might give you the impression it's a family drama. It isn't.

The second third of the film might give you the impression that it's a crime drama. It isn't.

Then comes the final third. It will make you question everything you've seen up to that point and either infuriate you or cause you to manually lift your jaw off the sticky theatre floor. It's out there. Waaaay out there.

The film does a terrific job of building a mood and layering suspense with discomfort. It is an incredibly violent film, graphic in a way I haven't seen since Gasper Noes' "Irreversible." The violence is intrinsic to the film and to its protagonist, but that doesn't make it any easier to watch.

This film bothered me, and except for the extreme violence, I can't really explain why. It left me feeling uneasy and uncomfortable - but I couldn't stop watching. I have so many questions about what I just watched that I will probably watch it again – and I will probably still be bothered.

When's the last time you said that about a film that wasn't a documentary?

www.worstshowontheweb.com
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Interesting idea, but a failed execution
Nick Palmer3 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I caught Kill List at SxSW and was pretty disappointed.

There were a number of things I did like about it. The acting was all really strong, and the best moments came when the director just took a step back and let the actors perform. The director also did a great job building tension throughout.

The thing most people will be talking about is the crazy left turn the story takes in the 3rd Act. (Spoiler Alert!) After close to 2 hours of a straightforward hit man movie, it suddenly becomes a bizarre occult horror flick. It's a huge departure from everything that's come before it.

My issue with it isn't that this departure makes it feel like two completely different movies (which it does). My issue is that it doesn't do either of those movies very well. The hit man plot is as stale as it gets: Guys heading into 'one last job' before hanging it up for good. They even use the Tarantino-esque title cards between scenes, which I thought went out of style in '98. The only surprises come from how gory some of the violence gets.

I was completely bored and disengaged by about halfway through, so when these two stumble into a witchy sabbath I was actually pretty excited for the change of tone. Sadly, the horror part is a big letdown too. The filmmakers don't manage to build any real suspense, and the big SURPRISE at the end lacks any emotional resonance since we don't care about anyone involved anyway. They pulled off a similar twist in A Serbian Film with a much more powerful result.
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Oppressive, bewildering, disorientating and all the better for it (MASSIVE SPOILERS)
bob the moo21 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Like everyone else watching this film, I had heard lots of good things about it, but at the same time I had heard that it was fairly full on and that Kermode made reference to a colleague feeling so overwhelmed by it that they thought they may have to go outside for a bit. Despite this I decided to watch it, not particular sure of what I was starting to watch. The film opens as a domestic drama with a dinner party full of tension and simmering emotions. A simple cut-away to the bathroom sees one of their guests carving a symbol on the back of their bathroom mirror – no explanation for this at this point, but it is only the start of things turning weird as the two men are hit men and head out on a simple job to do three kills.

It is hard to describe this film without spoilers – so I won't. Basically what follows is a narrative similar to The Wicker Man, where a "normal" guy doing a job finds out that he has been manipulated by a cult into one of their rituals but by the time he finds out he is too late. Like the Wicker Man, this is confirmed by the ritual taking horrific form at the end of the film. Except that it isn't that well explained, so you will need to go with it to a point and, when that still leaves you with questions, turn to the internet for help! Whatever happened in the previous job seems to have made the cult (who worship money, death and violence) notice Jay and mark him for the role of their leader or an anti-Christ. The "kills" they have him do are part of the ritual – right up to the last two. It is a very solid plot and because it unfolds so quickly, it will have you thinking over it for some time as you will be overtaken by it when you first watch.

The plot isn't the thing for me though – what makes it work so well is that the entire film is imbued with this sense of foreboding and lurking horror. OK you have some very brutal violence (I closed my eyes if honest) but this really uncomfortable sense of uncertainty is in everything from the friend's interactions to a dinner party, everything has simmering resentment and violence just below the surface; Jay may be sent over the edge by violent pornography (we assume) but you always feel like if it wasn't that it would have been something else. It is directed excellently, with this atmosphere constantly in mind – I watched it at home but I can imagine on the big screen in a dark room it must have worked even better. The cast are great and the dinner party is evidence to how natural and real they feel. Maskell is convincing but so is Buring. Smiley is a surprise in support (he will always be the bike messenger from Spaced to me) as he is really well pitched and controlled.

Kill List isn't as perfect as the critics all said, but it is no doubt an experience of a film with a solid plot and plenty to reflect on when the film violently and suddenly announces that it is finished and you'll need to put it together on your own time. Constantly in your face and constantly feeling oppressive, the film is weirder by the minute, horrifically violent in sporadic bursts, but overall it works in the way The Wicker Man worked. Ignore the hype (or you'll expect too much) and you'll find a really strong British horror movie that creeps under your skin long after it finishes.
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Among the worst films I've ever seen.
render_this8 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After watching this film I was more angry than disappointed after having high expectations from reading a few reviews.

Presenting us with not a single character you can empathise with is not the film's biggest crime. About two thirds of the way through (mostly spent bored and uninvolved) I could feel it coming. I knew the writer(s) had posed so many questions that there was no way they could pull off an ending that gave any insight into what went before - the result? A massive feeling of complete frustration which I know the majority of the audience I saw the film with shared - several even laughed when the 'KILL LIST' title card came up at the end. When you don't get any reveal you've pretty much wasted our time for an hour and a half - thanks a lot - and thanks a lot to the critics who think stuff like this is clever and original when in fact it's just lazy - answering questions will always take more skill than just asking them.

Overall this is a nasty little travesty of a film, the only positive is that only £0.5m was wasted making it.
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Our favourite movie of Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness Series
thesubstream19 September 2011
Lodging itself eventually in the creepy-people-doing-creepy-things tradition of religious/occult horror films like The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby, director Ben Wheatley's hit-man horror flick Kill List comes on, initially, like a bad-boy bit of British Social realism.

It's rough around the edges, shaggy and idiosyncratically edited, with dialogue so unpolished and authentic-seeming that it's occasionally hard to decipher. It's filled with a handful of legitimately great performances by actors allowed to work improvisationally, seemingly, lending the first half of the film an incredibly charming unpredictability, a low-key volatility that had me bouncing back and forth between moments of disturbing darkness and happy familial pleasantries. Then it gets really crazy.

Jay and Gal are ex-army, estranged friends and partners in crime. Eight months after a disastrous (and mysterious) gig in Kiev, Jay's home life is disintegrating, and after a raucous dinner party with his ex-partner and his creepy new girlfriend he agrees to get back in the saddle and take a job. They're given a list - three targets - and soon they're settling back into a charmingly macabre groove, carousing "salesmen" on the road from town to town and target to target. But after an inadvertent discovery during a routine bit of hit-man work derails their plans, the pair realize they may be part of something much bigger - and much darker - than a back-room murder-for-hire.

Kill List a stunning piece of very smart genre filmmaking. Wheatley not-so-gently inserts chunks of spooky, disturbing horror into what's already a charmingly dark kitchen sink drama. It's this transition - that either a social realist framework can be twisted into a framework supporting high horror or that a horror film can work filled with improvisational dialogue and broody bits of working-class British anxiety - that makes the film such an immense, jarring pleasure.

Will it work for horror fans used to slick, post-'80s supernatural spookery? Will Ken Loach fans do with a little blood and forest horror? Who knows. For fans of both, it's a stunning - literally - hybrid, something completely unexpected, a real discovery. Kill List is a brilliant idea, brilliantly well executed.
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4/10
A Cynical Ending For A Very Stupid Film
Theo Robertson11 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Thank goodness for Film4 who are showing a season of British cinema . If it wasn't for them I'd be missing out on some obscure British films that have bypassed the local multiplex . Oh hold on what am I doing thanking them ? There might be a very good reason these Brit flicks aren't getting a wider distribution deal ? Certainly KILL LIST is a case in point

I knew absolutely nothing about this film before seeing it . Not a single thing and not wanting to spoil any surprises for myself stayed away from this website and the wikipedia in case it spoiled any surprises and I'm glad I did because the ending for KILL LIST both makes or breaks the film and I mean this in a very cynical way

Jay and Gal are a couple of former soldiers and Gal offers Jay some work under the guise of freelance work . As it transpires the work is composed of contract killings of people who are revealed to be producers of child pornography

It's at this point Jay proclaims he'd happily kill these nonces free of charge and who can blame him . It's also at this point the audience think they know where the film might be heading though they might be confused as to why the victims of this paid vigilantism thank their executioners as they're battered with hammers and have cigarettes stubbed out on their bare flesh

Make no mistake this is graphic extreme cinema shot in that confused " neo-realist style " By this I mean the sound mix is off , the camera work is shaky and the music is composed of rhythmically amorphous muzak that is disconcerting and the editing is jarring . In many ways it's anti-realist and you see the same sort of directorial technique such as Shane Meadows DEAD MANS SHOES and I thought that's the type of film I was watching . I was wrong

You see what happens at the end Jay and Gal go to assassinate their last target the local MP who is having a human sacrifice in a field ( Stop laughing up the back ) and find themselves fleeing for their lives as the cultists follow them wailing like banshees . These cultists have no fear of death as they catch up and kill Gal . They then proceed to surround Jay's house like a naked version ASSUALT ON PRECINT 13

" But Theo wouldn't someone have the decency to phone the police and have the cultists arrested for if not murder then at least streaking ? "

Look don't ask so many silly questions I didn't write the screenplay I'm only a mere audience member but from what I could gather the police , the local MP all of Jay's neighbours and everyone he knows including the bloke who gave him the original contract are all members of this cult . The thinking behind this cult is never ever explained and the fact that it's completely leftfield seems to be a completely brazen and cynical attempt to make KILL LIST something more than a mere vigilante drama featuring torture porn as a selling point

It's this ending that makes or breaks the film . I do notice a lot of people on this page enjoyed it and have to confess I sat with my jaw on the floor as to the ending , but this isn't necessarily a good thing . Ask yourself this - how well would this film be remembered if it wasn't for the ending featuring the death worshipers . Likewise ask yourself how a conspiracy like this could exist in real life ? I know people will draw parallels with what's going on at the BBC and politicians allegedly visiting children's homes for the most depraved reasons but people having human sacrifices led by the local MP in public fields is something different entirely
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9/10
Well crafted, claustrophobic & genuinely scary.
bradleyevans_16 December 2011
I felt compelled to write this review after reading the previous review on here. I fail to see how anyone with a true love for film, especially for the horror genre could possibly say this had a "ham fisted" approach. The largely improvised dialogue is such a pleasure to behold and lends the film an authentic stiflingly creepy mood. Much has been said about the director successfully cross pollinating two genres seamlessly and I concur that this is the effect the film has. Not only will fans of the horror genre find in this film a true cult classic, but it's bleak and improvised nature is very reminiscent of a Ken Loach-esque approach. The pace of the film escalates tirelessly throughout and towards the end of the film certain scenes are so claustrophobic I can honestly say this is the first "horror" film to have genuinely left me feeling unsettled & scared in many years. This film leaves the viewer, shocked and breathless by it's end, and I for one recommend it highly! Hopefully this will have redressed the balance for this film here after the stunning ignorance of the last simple minded review.
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Yes the ending is confusing / frustrating
leases20 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The story here has an interesting although conflicting development of the characters. Jay (Neil Maskell)and Shel (Myanna Buring) have a relationship that moves from all out screaming matches to affectionate embraces from one scene to the next. She knows he is a hit man but complains that he hasn't worked in months. The "black comedy" in this, alluded to in other reviews, should be clear but Ben Wheatly keeps it far too buried under the surface.

There are many inconsistencies in the story including a scene with "The Librarian" where Gal (Michael Smiley) asks where the safe is and goes off and opens it without asking for a combination. Another scene involving Jay examining his seemingly infected body and hand and his subsequent visit to a doctor introduces a surreal, dreamlike element that seems out of place.

The biggest frustration however is the ending. The manipulation of Jay to achieve his final "Kill" is absurd and un-imaginative. It is as creative as the typical horror movie scene where the young female, left all alone in the spooky house, decides to put down the shotgun,light a candle and go the drafty basement.
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