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Kill List

Year: 2012
Production Co: Rook Film
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Niel Maskell, Michael Smiley, MyAnna Burning, Emma Fryer

All I'd heard about this film before watching it was how excruciating and uncomfortable it was, and for a good half hour I wondered if I'd turned on the right movie. It was a nevertheless very insightful and well acted suburban drama of a tumultuous marriage, but even though the lead character of Jay (Maskell) simmered with violence waiting to explode, it was hardly excruciating.

But after awhile it turns, and then the thumbscrews start. Along with his Irish friend Gal, Jay is an ex soldier turned mercenary and hitman, and as the pair start tracking down targets their client has given them on a list, the tension builds. Helped by the soundtrack, camera angles and performances – every aspect of the filmmaking craft is dedicated to making you practically squirm waiting for some violence to burst forth.

When it does, it's quick and (pardon the pun, especially when it comes to the hammer scene) blunt. But it's in the final ten minutes that things veer even further away from the Ken-Loach-via-Ray-Winstone first act, spinning into a kind of demented Wicker Man-type thing involving bloodthirsty pagan worshippers on some rich politician's country estate.

There's little you can say about it that won't spoil the story, but suffice it to say that Jay finds he's been steered decisively to this point, until the final terrible scuffle that reveals the plan that's been outlined for him all along.

Like Daniel Henshall in Snowtown, Maskell as Jay has a very special onscreen quality. Without resorting to animated scowls or bursts of expression he seems like a keg full of gunpowder, the promise of violent death made flesh.

Somehow the two strange and massive turns in the plot work, probably because writer/director Wheatley maintains the malevolent tone throughout.

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