“Kill List” Didn’t
Quite Make the List
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Normally, film critics don’t compare notes, wanting to maintain an independent and uninfluenced viewpoint. But I will make an exception for “Kill List,” the crime-horror thriller playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Turns out, Ian Brockway and I were at the same screening. Ian is a regular contributor to the Tropic blog, as am I. When I entered the Tropic’s George auditorium, Ian was already there, his motorized chair parked in the back row. Between us, we cover movies from front row to back, it seems.
“Kill List” is a film by Ben Wheatley, the British director who gave us “Down Terrace,” another crime story. His background is Internet viral ads and TV comedy shows.
There wasn’t much to laugh at in “Kill List.” This grim and gritty gangster picture starts out as a portrait of a family on the edge, husband and wife going at it, child caught in the middle. Seems dad hasn’t worked in months and cash is in short supply.
Then the film unfolds as a crime story. Jay (Neil Maskell) and his pal Gal (Michael Smiley) are former military men who have found their calling as hitmen. The reason Jay hasn’t worked is due to a botched job in Kiev. But laid-back Gal urges him to join him for one more assignment.
Jay’s pretty blonde wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) kisses her hubby goodbye as he goes off to work, just another day of killing people on a list given them by a gaunt and mysterious employer who treats Jay like a blood brother.
Meanwhile Gal’s erstwhile girlfriend keeps turning up like a specter, hinting that she’s more than a human resources clerk.
As Jay and Gal go about their work, bodies pile up with increasing violence – a priest, a librarian, the final target being a Minister of Parliament. Gal is concerned about his partner’s vicious kills, about his reckless behavior, about his family life, about their friendship.
At the MP’s country place, the two hitmen encounter a pagan ceremony, throngs wearing straw masks, carrying torches, many nude. Engaging the revelers with gunfire, they are forced to run for their lives against this zombie-like hoard.
That’s when you realize this is more a horror flick than a crime story. It gets bloody, gory, and scary as unstoppable Druid killers chase the professional killers.
It doesn’t end well.
As we departed the theater, Ian and I compared notes. “The Wicker Man,” I said. He nodded, referencing the 1973 British horror film about a policeman lured to a remote Hebridean island where he becomes the prey of Sun God worshippers. It was remade in 2006 starring Nicolas Cage.
We mentioned Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” the 1999 film in which Tom Cruise stumbles into masked orgy, surrounded by naked beauties and robed priests, running afoul of a secret cult.
And then we touched on “In Bruges,” a film about two hitmen cooling it off after a failed job.
That’s the way film critics talk, in cinematic references.
In the end, we agreed we like the original “Wicker Man” better. As the Tropic’s Matthew Helmerich teased later, “That’s because it had Britt Ekland nude in it.”
Yes, but what’s your point?
I’d ask the same of Ben Wheatley.