Review: ‘KILL LIST’ Is Brutal, Funny, Scary And Unsettling!

By on 12 September, 2011


As I went in to this film there was and old couple ahead of me, and I commented to a friend that I was concerned they would find it too violent. My friend response was “surely when we’re old we’ll still watch violent things”. That be as it may, around halfway through said couple left, looking more than a bit shaken up. You see, ‘Kill List‘ is no light-hearted affair, and a particularly horrendous hammer-related death had obviously been the last blow to the silver-haired audience members.

While I was impressed that they stayed until they did it made me realise that for large parts of this film it is a drama above all else; an effective, brutal, and moving drama.



Neil Maskell – Jay

Michael Smiley – Gal

MyAnna Buring – Shel

Harry Simpson – Sam

See link for the other cast members from ‘KILL LIST

Directed by:

Ben Wheatley

Written by:

Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump


The cast are hardly household names, although fans of Spaced may recognise one of the protagonists, not that he’s got much in common with his cycling drug peddler former self, mind. Director/writer Ben Wheatley (‘Down Terrace‘) pulls off the feat of making the audience side with a crew of decidedly morally bankrupt people, and the family drama that in a sense acts as a catalyst for the ensuing brutality is brilliantly convincing.

So, let’s hit the plot. Two old army friends, Jay and Gal, who have obviously been hitmen together since finishing service, decide to do one more job, and a shady contact gives them the titular ‘Kill List‘. From the get go (a deal sealed in blood) it becomes clear that this might not be a straight-forward mission, and sure enough it’s not long until the duo start to go ‘off list’ due to a shocking discovery. Menace hangs over the entire pic, from an unbearably uncomfortable dinner scene at the beginning to a, well, let’s just say, bat-s**t crazy finale. Look out for the Rabbit lunch scene, an example of hilarity expertly placed to cut through the bleakness.



The two leads (Maskaell and Smiley) are fantastic, and the fact that you are rooting for such awful people is a credit to both the writers and the main men. A shout out, however, must go to Burling, who plays the Jay’s wife; she was warm, cold and everything in-between, and always utterly believable.

As the story unfolds, so, in some ways, does sanity. There are sequences early on that suggest something a bit beyond the norm, and I’ve read many reviews that have referenced ‘The Wicker Man‘. I understand the comparison, but it is based on a few key components (fire, straw, nudity), and this film is a much more terrifying beast.

See the trailer for ‘Kill List‘ below:


Whatever one feels about the last quarter of this film it will warrant a reaction (like walking out for example), and will lead to prolonged debates. It’s brutal, funny, scary and unsettling, and I’ve not enjoyed an awful experience as much as this in a long time. To say more would risk giving too much away – go be surprised and upset, if you’ve got the stomach for it.


5 out of 5 – An instant classic!


Reviewed by Jo Jones.




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