Ben Wheatley’s much talked about Kill List is a dark, claustrophobic and disorientating journey into hell. It follows the descent into madness of Jay, a man haunted by the violence he has seen and committed both as a soldier in Iraq and in his post military career as a hit man for hire. Whether that descent into madness is internal or external is not clear and I will leave that up to you to decide. What is not in doubt though is that this is visceral, gut-wrenching, low budget film making at it’s very best.
The film starts relatively normally as a tale of domestic disintegration as Jay is still struggling to come to terms with a botched job 8 months previously. The largely improvised dialogue and handheld verite style of the film place it firmly in the British social realist genre of Leigh, Loach and Meadows. Things soon start to take a turn for the weird as Jay and his partner take on a mysterious new job. It is at this point that the film really comes into it’s own as an exercise in creating a claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere. Jay starts to unravel as things get increasingly out of hand and escalate towards a truly horrifying and upsetting denouement. Whether we are to take the events of the film literally or as some kind of manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress I am not sure and ultimately it does not really matter as for me it works either way. It is clear though that Wheatley has crafted a highly original and unsettling film that will undoubtedly become a cult classic in years to come.
Some have criticised Kill List as 2 different films clumsily welded together but the move from thriller to horror in the final part of the film is a masterstroke and left me reeling despite expecting this change of focus. It will not be for all tastes and indeed some of the people I watched it with absolutely hated it. What cannot be denied though is that love it or hate it Kill List will stay with you long after it has finished.
FROM THE CANS OF SAND ARCHIVES
For a significant portion of Herzog’s brilliant TBL:PoCNO (as it will henceforth be known) I was unsure whether I was watching a work of genius or the most preposterous piece of garbage I had ever watched. Similarly I was unable to decide whether it was the performance of Nicholas Cage’s career or he was simply a retard. On reflection I think that “work of genius” and “performance of his career” are probably closest to the truth.
Do not watch TBL:PoCNO if you are expecting a retread of Abel Ferrara’s bleak 1992 masterpiece from which this film gets it’s name. In fact you are probably best served ignoring the words “Bad Lieutenant” entirely as they only serve to confuse and confound your expectations of it. The film bears little resemblance to Ferrara’s film in terms of aim, style or tone and the name is only there because the producer allegedly wanted to create a franchise. My love (though I’m not sure if that is the correct term to be honest) for Ferrara’s film is what caused my initial confusion when watching TBL:PoCNO as i was unsure as to whether I should be taking Herzog’s with the same level of seriousness. It wasn’t until about half way through the film that I realised I was watching a parody of mainstream Hollywood crime cinema and it’s cliches. The final realisation of the film’s aim as parody coming in the fantastic scene towards the end where several storylines gain closure in a parade of ridiculousness.
This is Cage’s film all the way though and it is a joy to watch him chewing his way through this madness and for some reason turning into Jimmy Stewart half way through the film. It is not a subtle performance and if you are not a fan of Nicholas Cage then chances are you will hate him even more after watching him in this. For those of us who enjoy his work, particularly his early, edgier roles, then TBL:PoCNO is truly a treat.
Whilst I absolutely loved this film by the time it had finished it is perhaps difficult to truly recommend it. Most people will probably find it ridiculous, over the top and nonsensical. For me though sometimes that is recommendation enough!