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  Kill List Taking A Hit
Year: 2011
Director: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley, Emma Fryer, Harry Simpson, Struan Rodger, Gareth Tunley, Mark Kempner, Damien Thomas, Ben Crompton, Lora Evans, Robert Hill, Rebecca Holmes, Gemma Lise Thornton, Robin Hill, James Nickerson, Alice Lowe
Genre: Horror, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jay (Neil Maskell) is an ex-soldier who found his last job so distressing that he hasn't worked in eight months since leaving the army, and his wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) is feeling the strain. Although they love each other very much, too often their relationship erupts in shouting matches, which only serves to upset their young son Sam (Harry Simpson). Tonight Jay's old friend and colleague Gal (Michael Smiley) is visiting with his latest girlfriend Fiona (Emma Fryer) for a dinner party - but Gal has a proposition for him, a way to make much-needed money.

For his follow-up to his much acclaimed domestic gangster thriller PDown Terrace writer (with Amy Jump) and director Ben Wheatley opted to explore more horror-themed territory, but the reaction was mixed. Certainly he displayed his knack for believable dialogue as before, and blessed with a cast who were able to bring his more prosaic settings to life, but when he went further and sought to put the audience on the edge of their seats, he only succeeded so far. It was true that for most of this you were wondering where it could possibly be heading, but when you found out the sense of disappointment was hard to ignore.

Before that there was time to appreciate the interplay between the three main cast members, as Wheatley illustrated his skill with actors to fine effect, especially in the scenes where they simply talked with each other, and details like Jay going to the supermarket and bringing back ten bottles of wine but no toilet rolls ring uncomfortably true. However, when Gal suggests this new job, which involves taking a shadowy but lucrative deal to assassinate various people, no questions asked, the thriller elements begin to emerge, and for a good stretch of the movie operate with some efficiency. But then there's that odd scene with Fiona alone in the bathroom.

What she does is mark a symbol onto the back of the mirror, which seems out of keeping with the rest of the story as we are not informed why she has done so. But more strangeness is to come, as when the two hitmen meet with their client (Struan Rodger) he takes a knife and cuts a wound into Jay's palm, as if to write the contract in blood. For some reason they dismiss this action after their initial pertubance, much as they would have been wiser to be more tolerant of the singing Christians in the hotel restaurant later on and take note of their message, but that is not the type of men they are, and violence becomes their way of channeling their emotions.

So just as Jay lets off steam instead of confronting his thwarted life head on by arguing with both Shel and Gal, he throws himself into his new line of work now he is all too aware of what the targets have been up to, and many scenes of brutality follow. But he doesn't know the half of it - why, for example, do the soon-to-be-dead victims welcome this action? And why did the doctor he went to see about his injured hand skirt around the issue and ask him about his mental health? This is all building up a mood of paranoia, but don't expect satisfying answers as for the final act it throws out the whole notion of the corruption of the soul should you mete out your own brand of justice, and leaps straight into the landscape of a far more famous, and to be honest better handled, British horror classic. To say more would be to spoil things, but suffice to point out that the ending isn't half silly and undoes all the good work that went before, which is a great pity considering how well it was going before Jay and Gal end up in the woods. Music by Jim Williams.

[Studio Canal's Blu-ray looks great anyway, and has a making of and interviews as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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