Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New on DVD/Blu-ray: KILL LIST (2011) and HICK (2012)

(UK - 2011; 2012 US release)

This extremely violent hitman thriller/horror film from the UK is well-made, grimly atmospheric, and occasionally effective, but it shows its cards far too quickly and suffers from a contrived ending that, in a way, brings to mind another far more graphic underground horror sensation from Serbia.  Jay (Neal Maskell) is a stressed-out hired killer who's fighting with his wife (MyAnna Buring) and hasn't been able to work since an oft-referenced botched job in Kiev with his partner Gal (Michael Smiley).  Gal has arranged a new job for them: a kill list with three names on it.  Trouble arises when short-tempered Jay goes off-script, which apparently happened in Kiev, though we're never entirely certain, but Jay and Gal really have no idea what's actually going on or what's in store for them.  Director/co-writer Ben Wheatley (DOWN TERRACE) does a good job in establishing an ominous, foreboding sense of doom, but the cat's out of the bag very early on when Gal's girlfriend (Emma Fryer) is shown using Jay's bathroom and carving a weird symbol behind the mirror and stealing some bloodied tissue from when Jay cut himself shaving that morning.  Couple that with the weird blood oath that their contractor makes them take and it doesn't take long to deduce that there's more sinister things at work here than hired killers on an assignment.  Wheatley was open to letting the actors improv much of their dialogue, and there's a natural feeling to a lot of it (Maskell and Buring, in particular, are very good) that gives the film an almost kitchen sink-y, "Ken Loach doing a horror film" feel, but because of all the twists being telegraphed too soon, there's no real element of surprise when they finally do occur, and for them to occur, Jay has to do some very stupid things that reek of plot convenience.  Despite the film's many faults, Wheatley has a great eye for atmosphere and is definitely a filmmaker to watch, but on the writing end, KILL LIST could use some more discipline and probably at least one more draft.  (Unrated, 96 mins)

(US - 2012)

Miserable and frequently appalling road movie that wastes a fine cast headed by the promising Chloe Grace Moretz, who was so good in KICK-ASS, LET ME IN, and HUGO.  This is Moretz's second abused white trash role in a year after the 2011 misfire TEXAS KILLING FIELDS, and one can only hope she's got it out of her system.  Going back to (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, Moretz has displayed a surprising maturity for her age, and not just because she was dropping F-and-C-bombs throughout KICK-ASS.  But now, 13 and growing, she seems eager to explore increasingly unpleasant films like HICK, and it would be fine if there were anything more going on than shock value.  But director Derick Martini (whose LYMELIFE has developed a small cult following) and screenwriter Andrea Portes (working from her novel) can't even give this enough energy to make the shock value interesting, resulting in nothing more than Moretz's version of HOUNDDOG, aka "the Dakota Fanning rape movie."  Moretz is Luli, a pop culture-obsessed 13-year-old in 1980s Nebraska, who hits the road after she's abandoned by her trashy mother (Juliette Lewis) and drunk stepfather (Anson Mount) the morning after her birthday (among the gifts:  a 7-Eleven keychain and a gun).   Heading to Vegas, she falls in with hobbling ex-rodeo star Eddie (Eddie Redmayne) and hard-living Glenda (Blake Lively), who introduces her to coke.  Glenda goes her own way, but the relationship between Luli and Eddie drags on and eventually turns violent, with a mostly-implied but still tacky rape, followed by scenes of a scantily-clad Moretz tied to a bed.  There's nothing wrong with daring, uncomfortable cinema that explores the ugly side of humanity, but what exactly is the point here?  It's cliched, condescending, and an absolute chore to sit through.  Barely released to theaters, HICK also features Ray McKinnon, Rory Culkin, and a sweaty Alec Baldwin.  Terrible. (R, 99 mins)

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