Kill List gets off to a powerful start with a domestic row between ex-soldier Jay (Neil Maskell, below) and Shel (MyAnna Buring, bottom picture) about… well, what do married couples usually argue about? Money.
The problem is that he’s been out of work for the past 8 months and has no job prospects other than when he’s given the chance, by his best friend Gal (Michael Smiley), to get back in the saddle living the perilous life of a hitman with a new assignment. With their target in hand, they hole up in a hotel, pretending to a hotel receptionist that they’re in sales, and prepare to stake him out.
Kill List is a film that’s very hard to describe because there’s not a lot you can say, without giving spoilers, other than there’s more than one task for them to carry out, they’re on the road a lot with these jobs, there’s a bizarre connection with the hits we see take place and that at another point in the film we see a dinner party take place at Jay and Shel’s house with Gal bringing his new girlfriend, Fiona (Emma Fryer).
Along the way, Jay goes distinctly off-message – thanks to his previous assignment in Kiev leaving him emotionally scarred, as he dishes out some particuarly grotesque violence that earns the film its 18 certificate, and comes across as particularly explicit the first time you see it, before you rewind it and see how things were done. To add to this, it was so violent towards the end, with the final scene being so grotesque that I sat opened-mouthed for a couple of mintues as a result. Quite powerful stuff, there, even if the film itself does need a bit of work to stop it dragging from time to time.
There’s also some intriguing filming techniques to this film, with 3 or 4 quick cuts* in some scenes to mark the passing of time, while others do this while playing some dialogue from the next scene over the top of it. (*don’t worry, I’m not referring to censorship here. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it).
Kill List has some fantastic acting, especially from all the leads. Myanna Buring is normally quite hot in most productions, but here she’s intentionally playing a dowdy put-upon wife. And you may not recognise the name Michael Smiley, but you’ll have seen him in a million things before this.
As an aside, there are not one, not two, but three connections with the sadly-cancelled BBC3 comedy Ideal. There are two members of its cast: as well as Emma Fryer, there’s also Ben Crompton (“I’m on probation!”) as a guest of one of the hotels in which Jay and Gal stay.
Plus, the director is Ben Wheatley, who also directed a number of episodes from the series including, from series 5, two of my all-time favourites, The Temptation and The Red Bag, during which Alan makes his escape from Fist’s flat, only to end up over at blind Carol’s, who ends up accidentally killing him.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition, the picture is striking throughout with no flaws whatsoever. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Audio-wise, the film is presented in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio (for which I have a DD5.1 setup) and does all the necessary perfectly well whether it’s gunshots, atmosphere or dialogue. There’s not a great deal else to say other than while it’s not a demo disc, it has no issues whatsoever in what it needs to get across.
The extras are as follows:
- Making of Kill List (7:37): Spookily-lit camera tests, showing a lot of on-set footage during the filming of the movie.
- Interviews: Three here. One with Ben Wheatley (6:27), one with Neil Maskell and Myanna Buring (10:23) and one with producers Claire Jones and Andrew Starke (7:41).
These are brief Q&As and when Ben is asked about the film’s structure, he talks about how there are twists and turns and how the audience are asked to think, and he says, tongue in cheek, “I think thinking is quite a good thing and should be encouraged.”
- Audio commentaries: One with director Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump, and one with Neil Maskell, Myanna Buring and Michael Smiley.
- Trailer (1:45): Dialogue-free and doesn’t give too much away. Have a look at it here:
The menus feature some subtle animation with some eerie incidental sound effects and music from the film. Chaptering is far from great with just 12 across the 95-minute film. On the plus side, there are subtitles in English.
Oh, on the downside, there are three trailers before we get to the actual main menu… Optimum still haven’t learned(!)
Running time: 95 minutes
Date of release: December 26th 2011
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: BD25
Director: Ben Wheatley
Producers: Claire Jones and Andrew Starke
Screenplay: Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump
Music: Jim Williams
Jay: Neil Maskell
Shel: MyAnna Buring
Gal: Michael Smiley
Fiona: Emma Fryer
Sam: Harry Simpson
The Client: Struan Rodger
The Priest: Gareth Tunley
The Librarian: Mark Kempner
The Doctor: Damien Thomas
Justin: Ben Crompton
Keira: Gemma Lise Thornton
Stuart: Robin Hill
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.