KILL LIST is a strange, unsettling film. More character drama than straight out genre piece, the opening half owes more to Mike Leigh film than to Tobe Hooper. We’re introduced to Jay (Neil Maskell), a hitman that’s between jobs. After his last gig went awry (for reasons unclear at the beginning), he’s struggling to make ends meet for him and his wife.
His former partner Gal (Michael Smiley) attends a dinner, resulting in domestic strife. It’s clear that Jay’s not really out of the game, and his troubles with his wife go beyond merely the financial. These scenes are hard biting and very well presented, the kinds of hardscrabble family drama that’s a staple of British cinema.
Drawn back in, the two are tasked with performing three assassinations. With each killing, things start to get more and more bizarre. It’s a credit to the film that it manages to restrain for a good 2/3s of the film both the performances and pace of the work, so that when things do start going completely bonkers it’s even more effective. By the time we’re at the final killing, we’ve entered into another staple of Brit film, ye olde crazy cult movie. Sure, WICKER MAN is the most obvious allusion, but in many ways (including the exceptional use of score) the film owes a debt to Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT. If you’ve managed to stick with the picture ’till the narrative shatters, it’s quite a thrilling ride through the last sequence.
KILL LIST may not have been the perfect choice to be shown at Midnight, particularly as a closing film, given that it takes at least an hour to really get into the type of film that audience comes to expect. I think it’s a better film than a MM vehicle. I applaud the daring of the filmmakers who so effectively confounded my expectations aroused by the first half, and despite the pretty silly final moments came away thoroughly satisfied with the experience as a whole.