Kill List (2011)

Any three-day weekend is just about the greatest thing in the world, but I think we can all agree having Friday off > having Monday off. That free Friday sneaks up on you like a wrinkled five dollar bill in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn in a while. But when you get Monday off, the remaining four days somehow expand. It’s like the act of extending the weekend past its natural conclusion slows the rotation of the Earth, so that 72 hours after you first get back to work it’s still only Wednesday morning.

Why are national holidays bunched up so some parts of the year (looking at you November/December) get a disproportionate share, while months like August get none? I used to believe we as a nation were saving those months for future holiday-worthy events. But I’ve been around for a spell and we haven’t declared any new ones in quite some time. Martin Luther King Day is the most recently added national holiday and a lot of employees don’t even get the day off. (Did you know MLK Day wasn’t recognized by all 50 states until 2000? South Carolina holds its racism dear.) In the 30 years since congress voted yay for MLK, the most holiday-worthy event was 9/11. And that will never be a holiday because it’s too close to Labor Day. Terrorists are fucking diabolical.

I love crossing things off my list.

The story: Kill List follows Jay and Gal, a pair of UK Iraq War vets who make their living as contract killers. Something went wrong on a job eight months ago and Jay is reluctant to go back to work until money problems and Gal’s insistence convince him to take on a new assignment. What starts out as a routine piece of wet work soon turns weird as Jay’s personal feelings cloud his judgment and his targets start taking a personal interest in him.

Why are you rolling down the- Ugh! What did you eat?!

Biggest letdown: I wouldn’t call it a letdown (except I clearly am) but parts of Kill List feel a bit too film school. The first time we meet our hardened killers they’re depicted as a pair of aging glory days buddies, complete with receding hairlines and suburban paunches. Jay’s wife is a ball-busting beauty who constantly ridicules his lack of employment, while Gal fights the passage of time by wearing his thinning hair long and dating younger women. You can practically picture a Camaro on cinder blocks in the garage with Jay’s old letterman jacket in the trunk. Then when we see them kick into special forces mode we’re supposed to marvel at the unexpected duality. The scenes highlighting their competing natures even get inverted musical accompaniment to drive the point home. Screeching violins and ominous cellos underscore tender family moments, while lovely, intimate themes are reserved for the militaristic prep work before the first merciless assassination. So yeah, everyone has more than one side but no matter what you’re doing at any given moment, you remain all the people you ever were. Moving on.

After this murder I gotta pick up my kid at soccer practice!

Why you should watch: The above nitpicking is about the closest I could come to a real complaint. Kill List is phenomenal, at once thoughtful and disturbing. Gal, Jay and Jay’s wife, Shel, are abominable human beings, yet they’re totally endearing. Though they bicker and battle constantly, they love each other as much as any normal family. Perhaps the most valuable thing Kill List demonstrates is that a job is a job, and being a hitman is much less glamorous than we imagine. These men are highly skilled and well paid, but their profession is far more plumber than playboy. I couldn’t rewire a wall socket without shooting lightning out my asshole, so I have to pay a fortune to have a master electrician do it for me. But as any electrician will tell you, being a skilled tradesman doesn’t equate to Cristal and private jets.

And we have a coupon for a free breakfast.

I know I’m making a fine distinction here but showcasing the blue collar, unromantic nature of the murder-for-hire business is a vastly more novel thesis than just hammering away at the juxtaposition of killing machine by night and dull, feckless citizen by day. The former isn’t depicted often, if ever, so inundated are we with the Beatrix Kiddos and Leons of Hollywood. The latter is so facile Mark Wahlberg pulled it off with ease in The Big Hit. (Which, btw, was fucking RAD.)

You’re lucky we’re not in a movie theater or you’d be DEAD.

Memorable Moment: There’s a great gag in a restaurant where singing patrons in the otherwise empty dining room are driving Jay nuts. Ordinary people like you and me would either ignore them or hope our passive-aggressive harumphing is enough to get them to stop without confrontation. But Jay, back in the badass saddle after a long hiatus, no longer feels restricted by generally accepted rules of decorum. Kumbaya, motherfucker!

Choice quote: “Daddy thinks the cat brings us little presents. The cat thinks we don’t eat enough in this house. I just think the cat likes killing rabbits.”

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4 Responses to “Kill List (2011)”

  1. […] story: Just like the guys in Kill List, Bart is an Iraq war vet. Unlike the guys in Kill List, Bart didn’t survive the war. Killed […]

  2. […] Kill List – Eggs, milk, flour…what am I forgetting? Oh right, murder Steve. […]

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