Kill List looks set to put its director, Ben Wheatley on the map as a British feature film director. The film which utilises the tried structure of a hitman hired to do one last job, cleverly plays with genre expectations to create a film that lingers with an unsettling atmosphere and a few strong twists and turns up its sleeve. It brings together elements of perhaps the best of British cinema, with a realist tone in its performances and cinematography and a mood reminiscent of some of the most sinister British horror films.
Neil Maskell plays Jay, a onetime hitman who has been unemployed for eight months, while attempting to go straight. The increasing pressure to provide for his family comes to a head when he is offered work by best friend Gal (Michael Smiley). As the title suggests he has a list of people to kill, but as the list progresses he finds himself and the situations he faces becoming increasingly out of control. To say too much about the development of the plot would be to give away the effective set of surprises it has in store. Let’s just say that when Jay says “they’re bad people, they should suffer” after making a hit, the words take on a personal significance that he doesn’t yet realise.
The only criticism I have for Kill List is that it ends too abruptly. Wheatley sets up such a strong premise that the last act had an enormous potential for suspense, which was not explored to its full potential. This is not to say that the film is not successful in terms of scares (it absolutely is), but there could have been a few more for the masochists among us. Unsurprising for a low budget British feature Kill List runs at around 90 minutes; perhaps with a slightly longer runtime Wheatley could have made an even stronger impact. With Kill List Ben Wheatley has established himself as a director to watch, albeit not for the faint of heart.