Right from it’s bracing opening seconds Kill List is a movie that doesn’t so much demand your attention as shove it’s primal energy down your throat.
The familial environment of Jay (Neil Maskell – truly excellent) is slowly suffocating him. Ex soldier and recently retired hitman, Jay is finding it hard to re-adjust to family life and his pushy ungrateful Swedish wife, Shel, is pressuring him to get back in the game as it were. Their lone child is caught in the messy relationship and for the first third of the film we are treated to fully blown domestic potboiler. Jay and Shel do love each other, but the relationship has lots of very real niggles and pressure points. It is totally believable and wonderfully drawn. It’s also a highly cynical relationship, with a complicit wife buying into her husband’s other life.
When Jay and his “work” partner Gal (Michael Smiley – also excellent) agree to a final job they are given a list with three names. A relatively simple assignment at first glance. But the deep throbbing soundtrack and smatterings of occult, (blood handshakes, strange Blair Witch-esque symbols) instil a sense of unease and you just know things aren’t going to quite go to plan.
The less you know about a film like Kill List the more enjoyable it is. Suffice to say, that with his second feature, Ben Wheatley has emerged as one of the leading lights of cutting-edge British cinema. Kill List is at once unvarnished realism and daringly fantastical wackiness. The acerbic script provides for delightful dialogue throughout. You cannot help but relish the flashes of caustic humour and witty rapport between Jay and Gal despite the building claustrophobia. Themes of identity, friendship, family and the nature of guilt criss-cross this violent story to it’s, frankly, barmy conclusion. It won’t be for everyone, but it is certainly the best movie this reviewer has seen all year.