Film Review: Kill List

An atmospheric thriller, Kill List boasts a great ending. There are a few small problems with the film, but overall it is a worthwhile watch.

Shel is frustrated with her husband Jay as money is tight and he has not worked for eight months. When his best friend Gal and new girlfriend Fiona come to dinner, Jay reluctantly agrees to do another ‘job’. After being given a list of targets, Jay and Gal set about completing their task. As they make their way through the list, the men go off track as they witness something horrifying that leads them to an even darker place…

A thriller that transforms into a horror movie at certain points, Kill List makes a lasting impression primarily for its ending. The film begins as a crime film, seemingly concerned with two contract killers and the necessity to complete their task. In the background, there is the fact that Jay and Gal are army veterans as well as some unexplained past trauma.

Kill List relies on the combination of apprehension and a sense of the unknown to grip viewers. Director and co-writer Ben Wheatley is successful for the most part in maintaining this tension. There are a few occasions in the first half of the film that the atmosphere wanes slightly, but Kill List recovers from this.

The narrative of the film is interesting, although there are too many things that are left unexplained. Perhaps this feeds into the mystery, but the film would have been more cohesive if the varying elements had slipped together in a succinct manner. Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump have produced a good script. The dialogue is natural, and the interactions and banter between Jay and Gal come across as authentic.

Wheatley is clearly a fan of abrupt editing, as this is used several times in the film, not least in the initial scene where viewers are catapulted into the midst of a blazing row. The camerawork and lighting are also effective, particularly in the film’s later night scenes.

Performances in the film are good. Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring are suitably cast as Jay and Shel; their rows are believable and uncomfortable. Michael Smiley brings some lightness as Gal, while Emma Fryer appears a little restricted in her expressions as Fiona.

The film’s ending is very well constructed, and is likely to stay with viewers after they leave the cinema. Kill List‘s violence is considerable, but it is the climate of the film that leaves a lasting impression.