I don't doubt that the makers of "Kill List" abound with talent and good intentions. Unfortunately, they fail to make the most of those attributes to bring this otherwise smouldering, gritty, and unnerving film to a satisfying conclusion.
Jay and Gal are ex-army pals who do the odd "contract" to stay afloat. Jay hasn't worked in eight months, and his wife Shel is starting to lose her patience. Gal tells Jay about a new job that's come their way, and at his wife's behest, Jay (despite being haunted by a job that went pear-shaped in Kiev some months ago) agrees to it. They meet their employer, a man of few words and a sardonically detached expression, who slices open Jay's hand to seal the contract in blood.
The remainder of the movie details the tracking and assassination of the three targets, "The Priest", "The Librarian", and "The M.P.". There is a modest amount of violence, with one kill in particular being particularly vicious, but even more unsettling are some of the victims' reactions to seeing Jay coming for them. "Thank you," they say, as they take their licks with beatific insouciance. In between jobs, Jay finds his cat hanging outside his home, which Jay takes to be a "message"--although it's not clear what the message is, nor from whom it's come.
Jay's trauma from his previous work, knowledge of his victims' crimes, and the worrisome nature of his targets' inexplicable gratitude take their toll. Jay becomes more disgusted, unhinged, and fervent. During their final job at the M.P.'s estate, Gal and Jay happen upon a paganistic sacrifice au naturel in the woods. Their attempted rescue of the lady being offered (who also appears completely unperturbed about her fate) results in Gal being stabbed by one of the participants. Jay manages to escape to a safe house where he has stowed away his wife and son. Unfortunately, he's knocked unconscious and wakes up in the woods surrounded by the cult. He's given a knife and is compelled to face his last victim, "The Hunchback".
"Kill List" has many things going for it. It's taut. The characters are well played and neither fully sympathetic nor completely hateful. It has an unconventional, unpolished feel to it and doesn't ram its themes down one's throat or make its plot twists and secret messages glaringly obvious. Unfortunately, though, it's like a pot of water put on a camping stove that one desperately wants to see boil over...but just simmers away until it runs out of gas. And because the filmmaker has decided to favour suggestion and loose association rather than over-explaining everything, it runs the risk of being too nebulous and confusing. The big reveal at the end isn't necessarily entirely predictable--but it certainly isn't a huge shocker.
This is almost certainly worth the price of a rental, but as for owning it...a person would REALLY have to overlook the fact that it doesn't completely make sense or have a brilliant finale.