Kill List (2011) Directed by Ben Wheatley. With Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley and MyAnna Buring.
Having no prior knowledge of Ben Wheatley, the first few minutes of Kill List had me worried I was about to endure another one of what seems to have been an epidemic of low-rent, guns n’ geezers efforts that have furnished the career of Danny Dyer and the like. I’m happy to say these concerns were quickly quelled, as I found myself curiously drawn deeper into a dark world of scary characters and their violent, unstable lives.
Kill List is the simple tale of a hit-man, Jay (Neil Maskell), who after a recent botched job – and despite his own doubts, is coaxed by his pal, Gal (Michael Smiley) into taking on a new assignment. There exists an almost tangible intensity throughout, similar to that felt when watching the ‘funny how?’ scene in Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas. The threat of violence lingers ever present, to the point that it feels claustrophobic. Not only is the threat and intensity level turned up to number eleven, the explosions of violence themselves take you up to the edge and over, in a way that will possibly make the film unbearable for many.
Standing out in the acting stakes is Irish thesp Michael Smiley as Gal. Smiley is quite literally the smiling assassin. His friendly banter and warmth bring light touches to what is an otherwise a bleak and chilling hour and a half. Writer-director Ben Wheatley has proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with in British cinema. Yes, the violence will push buttons and yes, it is full of evil and brimming malice – but it succeeds as it sets out to. Bad things happen to bad people. 4.5/5