"Kill List" (2011)

British thriller "Kill List" (2011), with its "Wicker" ending, is suddenly relevant because of Ukraine

The British horror thriller from 2011 by Ben Wheatley, Kill List, while genre, may seem suddenly relevant as a lead character Jay (Neil Maskell) has returned from a disastrous experience as a mercenary in Kiev, Ukraine. We don't know which side he fought on, but one could suspect it was Vladimir Putin's cause. He and his partner Gal (Michael Smiley) work as hit men in present day Britain. That may seem like an odd occupation. Yet, the filmmakers won't you to bond with the pair and Jay's wife Shei (Myanna Buring). They don't seem to be radical Islamists or jihadists or terrorists in the usual sense. What is going on? Well, they seem to be running out of money. Shei holds a house party, where Gal and a mystery woman, Fiona (Emma Fryer), 'the human resources manager' (but probably working as a contractor herself, helping companies with severance and layoffs) attends with Gal, who has a new job, actually series of jobs. Fiona (rather like Tovina in my own screenplay) carves a mystery clue in the bathroom.

The men go on the assignments (rather like jobs from a temp agency). The first target is 'The Priest'. That's brutal enough. (The sequence starts at 37 minutes into the film.) Soon they move on to 'The Librarian' who has a collection of unspecified evil content. It isn't hard to guess that this is probably child pornography, and that the priest had been a pedophile. Maybe that sounds a bit homophobic. (The dispatch of 'The Collector' to recall a 1964 British film is particularly graphic and violent; I also recalled the 1993 British horror film 'Boxing Helena'.) After some complications with the 'contract', they go on to the third target, an 'M.P.' Back in the bad old days of 1962 when I was a patient at NIH, that abbreviation meant 'mental patient' (not complimentary, and no one believed 'it's nothing to be ashamed of'). Now it means 'Member of Parliament'. But this MP is special, in that he is involved in a human sacrifice cult. Jay will be drawn into it, stripped and tested. But the ending, deviating from previous examples like 'The Wicker Man' (both films) may surprise the viewer. The viewer might also recall 'Eyes Wide Shut'.

In the extras on the DVD, Wheatley talks about the issue of having the audience identify with characters who do awful things for a living.

This film does offer a bit more substance than the typical 'serial killer' thriller. The tag team seems to have been assigned to hit other "real bad guys" that John Walsh would go after.