A lot of the websites that I frequent have given “Kill List” a lot of high praise, some even claiming it to be quite a special and unique film mainly due to its unexpected ending. Because of all this, I stayed away from the recently released trailers, knowing I was seeing this at MIFF, in an attempt to go in as fresh as possible. Normally I like a film that can change genres and tones midstream but only if it is done right and makes sense (South Korea’s “Save The Green Planet!” is a perfect example), but when done badly it can be a downright disaster, which unfortunately “Kill List” is an example of.
The film starts off strongly in the vein of a family drama. Jay and Shel are a married couple with a young son. Tensions are high because the family is having serious money problems mainly due to the fact that Jay hasn’t worked for the past eight months. The couple are hosting a dinner party for Jay’s best mate, Sam and his new girlfriend Fiona, and during dinner tensions boil over between the married couple and a huge argument erupts. Later in the night, Sam goes down to the garage to check on Jay to make sure he is alright and to offer him a job. It is here that we learn that the two of them used to be hitmen and after the last job went bad, Jay has been too scared to work again.
This is the first genre change, as when Jay accepts the job the film becomes a hitman thriller with the two men working down their “kill list”, the names of the people their employers want assassinated. Sam starts to worry and think that he has made a mistake due to Jay’s increasingly disturbing and violent behavior, as well as by the kinds of people he has been ordered to kill. Suddenly, out of the blue and for no reason whatsoever the film changes again and explodes into a new millennium version of “The Wicker Man”, and this is where the film just loses it, because this section makes little sense at all. Seriously, it just comes out of nowhere and is woeful.
Visually it is terrible to look at with cheap digital video and scenes that take place in such darkness that it makes it almost impossible to distinguish exactly what is going on. Plus director Ben Wheatley also employs handheld shaky-cam throughout the whole proceedings making it even more unlikable.
On the positive side, though, is the friendship between the two guys and the performances from the two men playing them. The dialogue between them is natural and very real and had an ad-libbed feel to it, making it very easy to believe that they have been best friends for years. In fact the majority of the dialogue in the whole film is very good, but what were they thinking when they came up with this ridiculous ending?!?!