Archive for Neil Maskell

KILL LIST (2011)

Posted in 2012, Bad Situations, British Horror, Disturbing Cinema, Hit Men, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Murder!, Surprises!, Twist Endings, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by knifefighter

KILL LIST (2011)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Sometimes you find a movie that you don’t know a lot about, and you go in fresh, and it completely blows you away.

This doesn’t happen very often. With this age of media oversaturation, it’s almost impossible not to see the trailer for a movie a hundred times before it opens—not to mention countless ads on television. But every once in a while a little independent film, usually showing in a limited-run at an arthouse theater, slips through the cracks. You hear the buzz about it, and without too much effort you can avoid finding out too much about the plot, and you can have a fresh experience. Like I said, this is rare. The last time I felt this way about a movie was back in 1999, when Takashi Miike’s AUDITION had a very limited theatrical run (the theater I saw it in had it for two days!). I’d heard it was supposed to be good, but I avoided any reviews of it, and was amazed and surprised by it.

Well, sitting through KILL LIST was a very similar experience. It is nothing like Miike’s film, but it has been getting some buzz in the independent horror movie scene, and I was able to avoid reading too much about it, which is good, because it’s one of those movies that throws a few curveballs at you in ways M. Night Shymalan only wishes he could do. (Note: KILL LIST was made in 2011, but some people are only seeing it in the U.S. now, thanks to limited theatrical runs and services like OnDemand cable.Personally, I’m glad I got a chance to see it on the big screen.)

When it started, I thought maybe this one wasn’t going to live up to its buzz. It seemed like just another drama about British working people enduring hard times. Jay (Neil Maskell) has been out of work for months and his wife, Shel (MyAnna Buring) is getting more resentful with each passing day. Enter Jay’s buddy Gal (Michael Smiley) who comes over for dinner with his new girlfriend, Fiona (Emma Fryer) for some wine and chat, but the party turns ugly when Jay and Shel start screaming at each other in the other room. Meanwhile, their young son Sam (Harry Simpson) is taking the brunt of it all.

But things change when Gal offers Jay a chance to get his old job back. The two of them are veterans of the Iraq War and here’s where the first big story twist happens. It turns out that the two of them started freelancing as hired killers after the war ended. Jay has been out of work for a bit because of some mysterious mistake he made in Kiev (we never find out exactly what it was, but it must have been a doosy). But Jay gets a second chance and Gal seems genuinely happy to work with him again, “The Two Musketeers are back together,” as Gal puts it. They accept a job from an enigmatic man (Struan Rodger, who in the credits is simply referred to as “The Client”), who hands them money and a list of three people to kill, including a priest and a librarian. However, to seal the deal, the Client feels the need to take out a knife and make a deep cut in Jay’s hand, then proceeds to do the same to himself. Gal freaks out and pulls out his gun, but Jay seems able to overlook it and move on, even though he’s bleeding all over the carpet. Maybe he’s just happy to be working again and doesn’t want to blow it.

The people Jay and Gal are sent to whack are particularly unsavory types whose crimes shock and offend Jay, and he begins to take the job a little too personally, going after their accomplices as well. Gal starts to worry Jay is going to screw up again, and begins to seriously question the new partnership. Meanwhile Swedish beauty Shel decides to take their son and move out of the house to stay in a cabin they have in the country, leaving Jay alone to stew in his own rage.

It’s the final person Jay and Gal go to snuff that takes the movie in a completely unexpected direction. And about this twist I won’t say anything more, except that it reminded me a lot of two horror “classics,” one from the 1970s and the other much more recent. Needless to say, the ending is suitably disturbing.

The script is top-notch and the acting is equally good. You believe these characters are genuine people, and you care about them. I thought the camaraderie between Jay and Gal was especially good; these guys really do seem like best friends. The budget is clearly small, but director Ben Wheatley turns out a remarkable product all the same. Oh yeah, and there’s plenty of the red stuff for fans of gore. This is a movie that doesn’t look away when the rough stuff is happening. One scene involving a hammer is especially gruesome.

My only issue is that I couldn’t understand everything the characters said. In a few scenes, their Yorkshire accents get a bit thick, and I kind of wish the movie had given us some subtitles (which reminds me of another good but sometimes hard to understand movie, Gary Oldman’s NIL BY MOUTH, 1997). Don’t let this scare you off, though. You’ll get sucked in just the same and it’s pretty clear what’s happening at all times. You just might not catch a phrase here and there.

I’ve seen a few Hollywood movies lately where at the end, the audience feels the need to applaud. Most of the time, this is totally unwarranted (most Hollywood movies these days just aren’t that good). Besides, the people involved in making the movie can’t hear you anyway. But at the end of KILL LIST I wanted to applaud anyway. It was that good.

I can’t praise this one enough. I give it four and a half knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives KILL LIST ~ four and a half knives!