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Featured Blu-ray Review: Kill List

August 13th, 2012

Kill List - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

I heard a bit of buzz about Kill List before it opened in limited release, at least compared to most films. However, while its reviews were very good, they evidently were not good enough, because the film opened on the soft side and collapsed the next weekend. Was it really not good enough to thrive? Or is it just the wrong genre for limited release and should find a more receptive audience on the home market?

The Movie

The film starts with a husband and wife, Jay and Shel, in a massive fight with their son, Sam, in the other room. He hasn't worked a day in eight months and they've run out of money. He claims his back is hurt, which is why he can't work, but she thinks it is all in his mind. Later friends of theirs, Gal and Fiona come by for dinner. Gal has a job that he wants Jay to help him with. He says the money is good. Jay is still hesitant, but agrees in the end. However, they are not corporate salesmen, like Gal told Fiona, but hitmen.

Their job is local and involves three men and Gal says it should be really simple. But you know it's not. In fact, when they go to meet the Client (Struan Rodger), he packs a gun, because he doesn't even know who it is. It gets weird right away, as the Client cuts Jay's hand so he can sign the contract in blood. He also mentions that he knows about the problems in Kiev, which was the last job Jay went on, which went south. The first target is The Priest. The job goes down clean, but weird. The Priest seems happy to see Jay and thanks him before being killed. The second hit doesn't go down as cleanly. They learn the second target is part of a ... snuff film ring? Child porn ring? They don't actually say. He also says thank you while Jay prepares to kill him. He even says he's glad to have met Jay before he dies. And then things really get weird.

There's more to it than that, but the less you know about this movie, the better. In fact, I skipped over a couple key details, because I didn't want to reveal too much. This is a very effective thriller with plenty of twists. There are clearly clues that something is not right, but co-writer / director Ben Wheatley still grounds the film in a solid foundation of reality. We are not entirely sure what is ever going on, but we know something is wrong. And when we get to the big payoff, I'm not 100% sure it makes sense. And I don't mean that I'm not 100% sure it makes 100% sense. I'm not 100% sure it makes any sense. At all. None. This makes it really hard to come up with a recommendation. My initial reaction was, "What the hell was that?" My second reaction was, "There better be an audio commentary track to explain this one."

That second reaction is the key. I wanted an explanation, which meant I was invested enough in the movie to care what it meant. I wasn't annoyed and wanted to walk away, which is a real possibility when it comes to surprise twists, especially when the twist is as strange as this one.

The Extras

The extras begin with two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director / co-writer, Ben Wheatley, and the other co-writer, Amy Jump. I'm not 100% sure they know what happened at the end. Ben Wheatley did call it the Marmite Ending, so he understands how divisive it is. The second audio commentary track has Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, and Michael Smiley. There are three interview featurettes, the first with the director, Ben Wheatley; the second with two of the producers, Claire Jones and Andrew Starke; and the final one with two of the actors, MyAnna Buring and Neil Maskell. Next up is an eight-minute making of featurette and finally a two-minute promotional featurette. That's a great selection of extras.

Kill List cost less than $1 million to make, but it doesn't look cheap. The level of detail is high, usually. There are a number of darker scenes, and sometimes the shadows swallow up details. Colors are muted somewhat, but this was an aesthetic choice and not a fault with the transfer, while there are no problems with contrast, compression errors, digital manipulation, etc. The audio is solid with clear dialogue and good use of the surround sound speakers, while the gunshots have heft to them. Granted, it costs less than $1 million to make, so while it looks better than its budget, it still it's visually flashy, nor is the audio complicated.

The Blu-ray list price is only 20% more than the DVD list price; however, has discounted the DVD by a much greater degree and the Blu-ray is nearly twice as much. That's too much to ask for, but it might drop in price.

The Verdict

Kill List is a film that will draw in most viewers for the majority of its running time. Its ending will divide audiences, so it might be wise to start with a rental. If you have seen it, then the extras on the DVD and Blu-ray make it worth picking up, but the latter is overpriced on Check prices and wait for a sale.

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Filed under: Video Review, Kill List