It connect the dots as a crime drama, but Kill List never really comes to life....
MPI / 95 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: August 14, 2012
Kill List feels - in its better moments - like a crime thriller that desperately wants to be a horror flick. Director Ben Wheatley never fully infuses the movie with any major scares or anything, but when Kill List really connects, it does so with a suspense-fueled intensity that uses some of the horror genres most reliable gimmicks to excellent ends. Long buildups, extended camera moves around dark corners, mysterious objects and people emerging out of darkness - the assassinations at hand here feel like horror set pieces.
The issue, though, is that the film is exceptionally uneven in this regard. It definitely offers thrills, but between these bursts, we get the same bounty hunter cliches we've seen a million times in a million other movies. Staying true to the basic conceits of the genre is one thing, but when Kill List bounces into exposition mode, it seems to do so as a chore, like it needs to feed the meter during the 'fun' parts of the flick.
When the film opens, we see Jay (Neil Maskell), a guy with a wife and kid who has trouble finding work. But Jay and his BFF Gal (Michael Smiley) aren't your normal factory workers - after a stint in the security business in the Middle East, Jay and Gal are now gainfully employed as hit men, and they're ready to break free of the gig's dangers (but they need an occasion of one final blow-out to seal the deal). They take an assignment from a dude known only as The Client (Struan Rodger) and drive across jolly olde England offing people in accordance with their... kill list. Sigh.
Wheatley has clearly done his homework here - Kill List absolutely fits into the crime drama genre snugly - but there's very little here to offer in terms of genuine narrative excitement. The movie works on a binary level (if you make it through the first act, you're going to want to finish it out), but one wishes that the capable filmmaking team behind the film were more willing to venture off the beaten track here.