Saturday, June 8, 2013

KIL, this movie.



To those who haven't seen KIL yet, go ahead and do so before reading this one. Come on. Be fair to yourself. You won't regret it. You *have* to watch this movie.

If you need more convincing, then you are the reason most local films are lousy. Watch it. Watch it now.




Kil is not a great movie. You won't leave the cinema feeling satisfied. It won't change the world.

Not immediately. (We'll get back to this later.)

In coming up with how to approach Kil, I'm gonna make some comparisons to another movie I've blogged about: last year's Looper (2012).

In Kil, a suicidal guy (Kil) enlists the help of a shadowy agency to help him kill himself. He then falls in love with a girl (Kris Cempaka Cristina Suzanne Stockstill) and decides not to die. But as Harun Salim Bachik says poetically, "tak boleh cancel-cancel".

Here we have a very clear conflict set up with solid expectations:
How will Kil get out of his suicide contract?
Why does Kil want to kill himself so bad?

Very clean.

In "Looper", the main character is a hitman (Joe) working for the mob who kills people from the future. He knows that one day his future self will be the one he has to kill. Future Joe arrives, but manages to escape Present Joe. Now that Future Joe is on the run, the mob is coming after Present Joe.

Clear question. Solid expectations:
How will Present Joe track down Future Joe and kill him?
How did Future Joe escape the assassination attempt? And Why?


These questions are important to set up the audience's expectations. What's even more important, is how to play it out over 90 minutes of movie time.

Looper did this by introducing Present Joe's motives. His backstory. How he got to where he is. We show the audience the consequences of what happens if you don't "close the loop", to clue the audience in on how high the stakes are.

THEN we hit the point of conflict where Future Joe manages to escape Present Joe.

Movie then splits into Future Joe and what his motivations are. We get into the second confrontation, complications happen, movie ends.

Kil however, hit us immediately with the central conflict. It opens with Kil trying to kill himself already. This sets the audience up for something more.

"Oh. He attempts suicide right off the bat? Crazy. I don't even know why he's doing this yet."

Empathizing with the main character is important in the first few minutes of a film. We need to care for a character. Otherwise we're just watching a guy do stuff.

We (the audience) need to see the main character's goals and relate to them.

Showing the conflict at the start of a movie is not wrong, but it only works if the conflict is immediately relatable.

See: Iron Man (2008) where we open with Tony Stark being blown up and kidnapped before we learn anything about the character. This opener works because being kidnapped and blown apart is immediately relatable. You don't want that to happen to you. Now it's happening to this dude. Who is he? Let's find out. Simple progression of story there.

Joe's conflict in Looper is him not being able to kill a guy. Why would I (as the audience) care? Isn't it good that a guy escapes being killed? The guys behind Looper understands this problem of relatability, THEREFORE we open the movie by learning about Joe and his life. Once we learn how bad it is to not 'close the loop', THEN we see the conflict play out with the failed assassination. Straightforward story progression.

If "Looper" did what "Kil" did, it would have started out with the assassination attempt gone wrong, THEN we see his motivations. Clumsy, don't you think?

Now of course, films being an artistic medium, the rule of 'must learn about the protagonist in the first few minutes' is not a hard and fast, unbreakable law. There are ways in which a film can open on the conflict and still be engaging and entertaining.

My point at this part of the movie however, is that opening with the conflict should lead us into something more. He wants to kill himself and keeps failing. Why does he keep failing? Maybe we'll find out.

But not yet.

Kil instead finds out by chance of a shadowy organization that claims to 'solve' the problem of suicidal tendencies. He signs up and continues going about his life. While he does so, we see hints of Zara (a female character he will soon fall for) and his conversations with his brother and mother (who may or may not only exist in his dreams, we don't know at this point. Kil keeps waking up from things).

Kil also periodically checks up on this film director "Johan Iskandar" who is making a local film. I have no idea why this B story is here.

Zara and Kil have a connection, it is hinted that she works for Life Action Bureau and Kil sorta perks up a bit.

Also there's an Indian lady who talks to Zara. Zara then thanks her for her son's kidney that saved her from dying. I have no idea why this C story is in here either.

Kil gets kidnapped by a group of people, gets tossed around and sent back home safely (what) after which he gets mad and calls up L.A.B. to cancel his contract.

Keep in mind at this point in the film, we still don't know why he wants to kill himself so bad. The film almost doesn't want to tell you, by only hinting at a "maybe he killed his family by accident" answer.

Of course by this point, you don't really care what his motivations for suicide are, because his motivations *changed*. He doesn't want to kill himself anymore and instead wants to be with Zara.

At the end of the movie, as Kil is about to be murdered by Harun, it's revealed that the agency is actually one that concocts elaborate schemes to help suicidal people get out of their funk and find meaning in their lives.

It ends with a shot of him on the roof, not killing himself. No monologue. No tie-up. End.

The inclusion of the B and C stories that never converge into the main story makes it feel like the whole thing is a padded out short film.

Man, I really wanted Kil to be a good one. Then again, I also wanted In Time and Looper to be good.

Just as "Looper" failed in properly owning the central conflict of how to deal with your past self, and "In Time" failed to examine the consequences of wasting our lives, "Kil" never really looks at the issue it dances around: suicide.

"Kil" really should have been a short about an assisted suicide company that turns out to be helping people solve their suicidal tendencies. Flux visual lab is good at those.

Short films, by nature, force the viewer to fill in many of the gaps themselves, freeing the creator of the film to merely sketch and outline a theme and let the audience wring out the juice on their own.

Writing and crafting a full 90-minute film requires a different approach and merely scaling a short won't work most of the time. Trust me on that one.

The shots look good though. Shame about the story.


Now that I've finished being a critic, I must go on to congratulate flux visual lab on getting this film made and out in cinemas. The fact that a concept film like Kil managed to be completed and out in GSC and TGV alongside "Bro, Mana Motor Gua?" is commendable.

For all its flaws, Kil does one thing very well: It never insults the audience. It's a shame that this is the exception for our local films. If you're paying RM15 for a movie, it should challenge you. It should shape you and make you think of things. If you really want to just laugh for 90 minutes, pay someone to tickle you. Or go on YouTube.

Local pop culture needs more films like Kil to be made and seen by local viewers. Go out there and support our hometown boys. In cinemas. It's getting late to do that but there's still some time.

If you don't want Malaysian cinema to be filled with shit, you have to do your part. Go and see Kil.

And even if you're not satisfied with the ending, don't kill yourself.


random heckler observations:

  • So the chalkboard shots and the lying among photos shot are just for the trailer to look good I guess
  • Out-of-focus headcrop shot! Don't worry, we'll put awesome indie music as the soundtrack and people won't know because ART.
  • Indian lady bought 4 oranges and just one mango. What is this, Mr. Bean?
  • Cristina Suzooey DeschaStockstanell looks like Cillian Murphy. This is a compliment.
  • The girl in the office. What was she there for again? I don't blame her not knowing the kuih's name though. I don't know either.
  • The boss' front teeth. Yeesh. 


  1. Headcrop yg dimaksudkan tu bukan konon2 nak nampak cool indie. Itu salah projektor di pawagam. Cuba bandingkan dgn trailer di youtube. No headcrop pada footage asal.

    Shot zara atas katil bukan utk nampak cantik saja dalam trailer saja. Refer balik scene apakah sebelum scene Zara with polaroid pics atas katil. Jawapan ada di situ.

    Nice review. Come to The Annexe, Central Market on 16 June 2013, 12pm. Talk show about KIL. Q&A with the team behind KIL.

    1. Oh hey!

      Your two things tu dah tahu dah. The "random heckler observations" bit is just that la: saje nitpick.

      Thanks for the invite. And kudos for getting Kil into cinemas. I'd watch it twice if time permitted, really.

      (btw, I remember flux visual from last year's KL 48 hour film fest because I was part of the team that won Best Film. ha. Keep making good stuff, you guys :D)