Friday, July 20, 2012

TIFF HIGHLIGHT #13: KILL LIST (The Bastard Son Of The Wicker Man)

If The Wicker Man had a child with one of those British hooligan soccer movies and gave it away to be raised by Guy'd have Kill List - a genre-blending mess of a film that mixes mumbly UK tough guy Ray Winstone-ism with the occult (there's also a pinch of noir, a dab of the psychological thriller genre and a touch of gritty kitchen sink realism). I know that was a hell of a description but it really does best describe this overrated film that somehow got a bunch of praise last year on the festival circuit. I honestly didn’t even plan on writing about this because after seeing it in Toronto I seriously thought it wouldn’t make any kind of an impact at all. But a few months later it started showing up on quite a few "best of the year" movie lists, still maintains a nice fresh rating on rotten tomatoes with plenty of positive reviews to back it up and played at respectable art house theaters here in NYC. Just like Take Shelter (another overrated mess from Toronto) I'm scratching my head at all the positive praise this has been getting. To me it’s another example of how trying to combine different genres into one film don’t always work (example: Southland Tales). But unlike Take Shelter I'd actually give this one a second chance in the future. It actually had some enjoyable parts, but overall the dialogue was difficult to understand because the lead actor mumbled through most of the movie, there were these random (almost) unnecessary scenes of eerie creepiness that seemed forced and overall it just felt like a bunch of short films mushed together to make one feature length film. First we have a gritty handheld drama about a husband & wife at each other’s throats, struggling financially and can’t seem to make ends meet. Next thing we know it’s a hitman movie. Then outta nowhere it’s an homage to culty/horror films from the late 60's early 70's. Naturally, those that know me well could imagine me in the theater with that confused/frustrated look on my face going; "Wait, what?" quite often. In a post-Wicker man remake-era why would anyone wanna go near those types of movies? Don’t people know Neil Labutte ruined just about any possibility of bringing legitimacy back to that genre after he remade a classic film and turned it in to quite possibly one of the worst movies of all time (yet strangely enough one of the most entertaining)?

Kill List                                                                                     The Wicker Man
Kill List                                                                                    The Wicker Man

After an unspecified disastrous mission in Kiev leaves "Jay" (a soldier & part time hitman) shaken and suffering from some type of a post traumatic stress, he hasn’t been able to "work" (perform a hit) in quite some time which makes things tough on his family because they have no money coming in. One night at a dinner party Jay's best friend "Gal" (another former soldier and current hitman) offers Jay a job that’s apparently too good to turn down. Together Jay & Gal are hired by some type of tight-lipped, mysterious, eyes wide shut-style secret society to carry out a series of killings. Jay & Gal are given the most basic information to carry out the kill list (which is still pretty vague) and whenever they inquire about who/why they're killing someone they're met with subtle hostility from their strange secret society employers. Nevertheless the two hitmen still carry out their task. Throughout the film Jay & Gal come across signs & symbols that hint towards the occult and the events surrounding each murder start to become more and more weird - After their first kill, Gal's strange girlfriend appears outside of Jay's hotel room dressed like she's in a cult and just stares at him and one of the people they kill says "thank you" right before dying. Next Jay, who's still obviously suffering from his unexplained post traumatic stress, gets too emotionally involved when he finds out the people on the "kill list" is tied to some type of child porn ring. At that point Gal wants out, but his employers won’t allow it and they have to finish out the kill list. Eventually Jay & Gal discover that everything is coming full circle and they may be targeted by the same people who hired them. Suddenly the last 30 minutes of the film, which IS still kinda entertaining, turns in to a psychological thriller/horror about cults with a sudden ending that'll have you scratching your head like; "what the fuck?" Like, seriously...what was the point of this movie? Don’t get me wrong, it had its cool atmospheric moments, the music was a perfect mix of drones, subtle synths & eerie samples, the natural handheld cinematography worked for the most part and it was a daring attempt to try and mix genres, but at the same time it just seemed pointless once the ending credits rolled. I don’t wanna spoil too much (even thought I REALLY want to so you can know how ridiculous the ending is) but if/when you see it you'll know what I'm talking about. I honestly think even people who enjoyed Kill List can’t really fault someone like myself for disliking it so much.
Like I said, Kill List may be worth revisiting in the future (I made a point to call out the few positive aspects that stood out to me). And I'd be lying if I said the movie didnt have its share of great shots (see shots) and a few legitimate creepy moments. I can almost get why some people would be in to this, but maybe it’s just not my thing...


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