Tyler Mager’s review published on Letterboxd :
Many people got to see this movie last year, I’ve been jealous each time I’ve had to hear about it. Kill List was finally made available to more people through On Demand, iTunes and Amazon On Demand this past week. As excited I was to finally see the movie, I had to temper my expectations just a bit, you know just in case it doesn’t live up to all of the high praise I had been hearing for almost a year. Whatever I was expecting, it certainly wasn’t this.
I’m a fan of Ben Wheatley’s previous movie Down Terrace primarily due to the wonderful naturalistic dialogue and cinematography. The movie felt improvised without actually being improvised, the characters felt real and when the hard hitting stuff finally came it felt all the more rough because of the layered characters and situations they were put in. Kill List covers similar territory both plot-wise and the way it’s made. Wheatley is starting to find his voice and style and it’s nice going into the film already familiar to the odd, off kilter slow burn it presents. Financially trouble former hitman Jay, played by Neil Maskell, is in the middle of a failing marriage while also dealing with being unemployed until his fellow friend and hitman, Gal played by Michael Smiley, offers him a job that may get him out of the mess he’s in. To go any further would be a mistake, it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.
I’m not going to spend too long retreading what I’ve already said. Wheatley’s style and trademark naturalism is still completely intact and just as well done as before. Where the film really distinguishes itself is halfway through when the line between drama, thriller and surprisingly horror is blurred. I’m not completely sold by the eventual outcome of the movie and the way it gets there but I have to admire the guts to take a dark path toward something unique and different from what we might be expecting. The performances from Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley are incredible and help sell the insane twists and turns the two friends take while trying to complete the “kill list”. I haven’t mentioned MyAnna Buring who is completely convincing as Jay’s fed-up wife, Shel. The fights they have are as brutal as the hits, it’s strangely entertaining watching the two completely disappear as the characters are at each others throats.
The cinematography at the beginning of the movie retains the very naturalistic approach previously explored in Down Terrace but as the movie progresses into darker territory the naturalism is mixed with a stark light and dark contrast that absolutely terrifies. The clever use of darkness in the frame and when light is introduced becomes powerful in displaying a potential horror around each corner. This becomes especially effective during the intense twists throughout the movie culminating in a terrifying and claustrophobic final sequence.
Kill List is a great movie that unfolds with a wildly unpredictable turn of events that will have people gasping at the final frame. It’ has some issues but it’s confidence helps overcome any problems I might have with the overall product.