One of many barbaric figures in Kill List.
  • One of many barbaric figures in Kill List.

I already regret writing the capsule review of Ben Wheatly’s Kill List that ran in last week’s issue. “At heart it’s just an exploitation movie whose chief aim is to make people throw up,” I wrote in a dismissive, moralizing pan that only glibly acknowledged the film’s formal strengths. Such is the hazard of watching a movie so close to deadline (I had less than 24 hours after the press screening to turn in my piece): it doesn’t give you time to digest your immediate response and plot out a nuanced argument. And since Kill List is an indigestible work by design, it made for an especially hazardous assignment.

Having thought about the movie for a couple weeks (it may be more accurate to say I’ve been unable not to think about it), I’ve come to admire it a good deal. Its nauseating violence now strikes me as purposeful, even necessary. Like Gaspar Noé’s 1998 I Stand Alone—the movie it reminds me of most—Kill List uses its horrifying imagery as part of a larger political provocation. If you have a strong stomach, I’d recommend attending one of the final shows at the Music Box tonight. Some further considerations—along with spoilers—follow the jump.