The Genius of Ben Wheatley – Kill List

Ben Wheatley’s first two feature films, Down Terrace and Kill List are currently available on instant Netflix. His third film, Sightseers, is just starting to see U.S. distribution.

Ben Wheatley’s genius is not in the enjoyability of his films. His particular genius is an ability to populate his films with real people, (forgive the expression) warts and all. He avoids making his characters archetypes but it does mean that they are difficult to like as they are terribly flawed.

One-Line Review: Sophomore effort lacks humor of debut but rewards patience with chills.

Kill ListKill List (2011) – Not rated

“In this white-knuckle crime flick, out-of-work hit man Jay teams with his partner, Gal, for a three-contract job that rapidly turns from routine to obscene as the call of duty takes a twisted toll on Jay’s sanity and sense of control.”

Wheatley continues to serve as director, writer, and editor but drops the producer credit from Kill List. The accents of the two main characters are both different (from each other) and, at times, indecipherable. Kill List is also a lot less humorous than Down Terrace but no less violent.

Kill List essentially boils down to “what if we had a retiring hit man movie that turned into another type of movie”. I won’t say what because of spoilers but it is a very interesting concept with one heck of a payoff in the final act. As with Down Terrace, Kill List rewards patience. Hardly anything happens for the first forty-five minutes as characters are established.

Kill List is not the ensemble piece that Down Terrace was. Neil Maskell is the star and carries the film as semi-retired hitman Jay. Michael Smiley, so good as Pringle in Down Terrace, has a much bigger role here as Gal and is quite excellent. MyAnna Buring (Sam from The Descent) is quite lovely and good as Shel. Her looks would have taken me out of the picture had it not seemed, plot-wise, as though she was Jay’s trophy wife.

Kill List is highly recommended for a slow burn but Down Terrace is the better and more accessible film. Watch Down Terrace all the way through and if it is your cup of tea, move on to Kill List.

People Watch (Down Terrace edition): Besides the aforementioned Michael Smiley, Robin Hill, Karl in Down, is Stuart. Mark Kempner, Councillor Berman in Down, plays the Librarian. Robert Hill, Bill in Down, plays the High Priest. Sara Dee, voice of a radio reporter in Down, plays a news reader. Gareth Tunley, Johnny in Down, plays the Priest. Whew! Wheatley also uses much the same cast for Sightseers.