SXSW Review: Kill List

Friday, March 18 by

I did not enjoy Kill List, and not because it’s offensive or upsetting. It’s because it’s phony. If you’re trying to traumatize me, you’re going to have to earn it.

The whole movie is predicated on a final shot that’s going to leave the audience shaken. It is a cinematic taboo, but it goes there. Well, if you know that the cinematic taboo was contrived to upset you, why would you give the filmmakers the power to do so? Take the power back, call it what it is and hold your head high as one of the few who didn’t let a movie get to them.

See, I understand film too much. You can’t just shock me. The whole movie is so generic, I’m not about to care when you pull the rug out. I actually had nothing to write about until the last shot though, so at least it gave me a reason to review the film.

The story is just about two contract killers running down the list. How shocking is that? Before we find out they’re killers (although it’s not a stretch for anyone in a movie to turn out to be a hit man these days), we just see them at a dinner party. Jay (Neil Maskell) is a total douche to his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring). He forgets to buy toilet paper, eats all the lamb and flips the plates over at the table. Jay’s partner, Gal (Michael Smiley), seems to be just the straight man.

Dead animals show up throughout, some just road kill style, but some genuine on screen carcasses. That’s another cheap trick. I know people are upset when they see dogs die, but come on. They’re only showing you dead animals to push that taboo, so don’t give them the power. Make them work harder for a reaction.

The murders are graphic, and there’s one cool shot where a victim puts his head on the table and Jay bashes it in without cutting away. That’s a neat trick, but brutal violence itself is not shocking or upsetting. I expect killers to be violent. That alone makes it an okay hit man film for a low budget first time feature. But it’s a second feature and after legitimate British TV work, so Ben Wheatley should know better. Or at least we should know better than to be affected by the pre-programmed hot buttons.

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