Saturday, June 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Kill List (2012) ****

NR, 95 min.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Starring: Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, MyAnna Buring, Emma Fryer, Stuan Rodger

“Kill List” is a particularly British thriller. In its opening passages it plays like a domestic trouble picture, with an out of work husband and his wife arguing over paying bills and spending their money appropriately on things they need, like toilet paper instead of 10 bottles of wine. Then two friends come over for dinner one night. The men are long time friends and the other man seems to know the wife very well. His date is a new girlfriend who does something very strange at the end of the evening.

Throughout these opening passages we get little hints about who these people really are. The filmmakers never gives us much information at once, but soon a picture is formed about the men, who appear to be some sort of contract killers. This is a surprise because of the domestic issues that make them seem like such normal everyday people. As the plot develops we find more surprises that go against our expectations of the men and the wife; however, much of the developments are ideas about criminal life that we’ve encountered before.

That’s not to say any of this is presented in a way we’ve really seen before. The film is very down to earth, with performances that are something out of a Mike Leigh film, where the working class is dissected on an intimate level. These blue-collar workers just happen to be hired killers. The performances are gritty and visceral, achieved with a great deal of improvisation, according to the filmmakers.

A friend, who has very particular tastes in the films he embraces, recommended this movie to me. He likes movies that depict salt of the earth people who lead unconventional lives. He likes the edginess of characters that live on the fringe. Everything in this film seemed right up his alley, but it wasn’t until the final act of the film that I realized just how much this must’ve appealed to his unique film going sensibilities.

The final act takes the story off the rails into very strange territory. What was a gritty, under-toned crime thriller suddenly becomes something out of “Eyes Wide Shut” meets “The Wicker Man”. That’s not to say there weren’t hints that it might go to these extremes before this point. The two killers are thrown into a situation that is out of their realm of expertise. They still operate with skill, but they are clearly in unchartered waters, as are the filmmakers. I’d like to try and extrapolate some deeper meaning to the events depicted. While that may lie within the oddities discovered here, it will take closer examination to uncover those meanings. As such, repeated viewings are a welcome proposal. 

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