Kill List (Wheatley, 2011)

Rigorous and uncompromising, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List is the kind of extreme genre filmmaking that will either make you squirm or swoon. I did a little of both. There’s plenty of undeniable precision and talent on display (especially Wheatley’s incredible ear for dialogue), and the film’s thematic underbelly always fascinates. The motif of rotting flesh and scraps is especially telling and grim, some kind of warped allegory to the economic malaise that is referenced a few times in passing.

Brutal violence is the only release in Kill List, yet the act itself only begets more ambiguity, an approach that ultimately culminates in the film’s ridiculously over the top ending. Still, the volatile camaraderie between the two leads (Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley) lends a certain human tragedy to their descent down hell’s rabbit hole. The performances alone are worth sitting through Kill List‘s sometimes inane narrative clues and foreshadowings. Wheatley’s previous film, the truly disturbing gangster/family saga Down Terrace, is a far more compact Molotov cocktail, yet Kill List shows Wheatley growing in ambition, even if that audacity is often grating to a fault.

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