Friday, January 20, 2012

Kill List

I'd say I understood about 50-65% of the dialogue in Ben Wheatley's "Kill List," which perhaps seems like a disqualifying factor. But it's not my fault that a) the actors have thick British accents and that b) the sound recording is utterly atrocious. Maybe people who catch everything that's said will enjoy this movie more. However, some of the biggest pieces of this extremely disturbing work can be easily understood: a brutal beating by hammer, much hand slashing, a simply horrific final scene. I haven't seen a movie this genuinely debased in a while. Then again, I don't watch a whole bunch of horror films.

Wheatley has the materials for an unforgettable movie here. He unfortunately can't pull them together very well at all. The film is almost entirely backloaded. The first 45 minutes of the film meander under the pretense of character development. Then, after a certain point, things begin to ratchet up. That's all great, but at that point the filmmaking gets even lazier conceptually (plus a lot more incoherent) and only manages to work viscerally. Only the last 10-15 minutes, as seriously messed up as they are, shock something into the film. The only problem is, they also don't really hold up dramatically (i.e. it's near impossible to tell what the hell's happening at times; it feels too purposely obscured).

We follow retired, aggressive contact killer named Jay (Neil Maskell) who continuously lashes out at his wife with less and less regard for his young son. Their financial resources have been drying up ever since his last hit and his memories of his profession as well as his time spent in Iraq are beginning to really harass him. A dinner party with his work partner and best friend Gal (Michael Smiley) and his girlfriend Fiona (Emma Fryer) seems inserted to show the wildly fluctuating moods: everyone gets drunk, but not before Jay flips out and throws the table over.

Work must be found, and soon enough, Jay and Gal get employment from an unnamed Client (Struan Rodger). They're sent off to a kill a few folks, the reasoning behind their being targets getting hazier and hazier as the film goes on. Jay starts getting angrier and angrier and less able to control himself when he's bearing down on his victims.

I can't say much more than that without giving the whole thing away. The ending came as a mix of "Ok..." and "Ho-ly shit," the two pole reactions that viewers seem to be clinging to. If the movie had been better assembled, it could be some sort of lurid fascination. Instead, as a mixed bag, it's somewhat of a letdown, not giving enough to justify what it puts on display. I'm curious to read more of the ideas people have about it, though. C-

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