Essential Killing 2010

Essential Killing

Critics Consensus

Driven by a uniquely stark mood and propulsive direction, Essential Killing excels due to an unrelentingly visceral performance from Vincent Gallo.

77%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 52

46%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,592

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Movie Info

A Taliban soldier (Vincent Gallo) struggles to survive after he escapes his captors and flees into the Polish countryside.

Cast & Crew

Zach Cohen
American Contractor 1
Iftach Ophir
American Contractor 2
Nicolai Cleve Broch
Helicopter Pilot 1
Stig Frode Henriksen
Helicopter Pilot 2
David L. Price
Interrogation Officer
Tracy Spencer Shipp
Young Soldier in SUV
Phillip Goss
Military Doctor
Andrew Lowe
Executive Producer
Jeremy Thomas
Executive Producer
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Critic Reviews for Essential Killing

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (12)

  • It's great screen acting, as [Vincent] Gallo expressively uses his body to make it part of the film's overall design.

    May 5, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Essential Killing goes so far out of its way to avoid political commentary that the commentary that remains is slim, reduced to a familiar, though occasionally striking, statement on man's animal nature.

    May 5, 2020 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

    Scott Tobias

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • The violent perversity of some of the man's actions throws things off to an extent and, ultimately, [Jerzy] Skolimowski's bag of narrative tricks is not ample enough to fill out even the brief running time.

    May 5, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Despite skillful assemblage, the script's plausibility issues increasingly undermine engagement, even with the generous argument that the pic is a parable and operates according to more poetic laws of realism.

    May 5, 2020 | Full Review…
  • At times engrossing and not without palpable suspense, it nonetheless amounts to a provocative doodle.

    May 5, 2020 | Full Review…

    Eric Kohn

    indieWire
    Top Critic
  • Vincent Gallo, who says not a single word in the film, invests the main character with deep-seated desperation in a performance that will win kudos.

    May 5, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Essential Killing

  • Jan 10, 2013
    The meditative, subversive and provocative thriller, "Essential Killing," is about the hunt for a suspected terrorist(Vincent Gallo), told almost entirely from his point of view. Except like in real life and the movie, things are not so simple. We first see him in a cave, trembling before killing two American contractors(Zach Cohen & Iftach Ophir) and their escort, who are there off-book and quite possibly involved in drug smuggling, in order to escape. Soon after this, he is captured and processed at an airbase and cleaned up. He is shouted at by an American officer(David Price) and might answer if not for all the ringing in his ears from the explosion. All of which resembles a production line more than anything else.(This is not the only time the movie references "Brave New World" by the way.) Since the waterboarding produces no results, he is shipped with others to Poland. In any case, this makes for a poor first impression. His escape into the snowy wilderness occurs when the army convoy comes across a literal pack of road hogs, causing the truck he is in to go over the side of the road and overturning. At which point, the conflict becomes less man vs. man than man vs. nature, as the former prisoner makes a bid to live off the land like the hunters and fishermen he sees with one extreme example thrown in for good measure.(Considering how much he seems to know about the flora, it would probably come as no surprise that he has done some hunting himself.) At the same time, we get glimpses of a past, happier existence.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 11, 2012
    Sometimes visually striking, virtually dialogue free piece with some memorable moments and a committed, if over-egged, performance from Vincent Gallo. The symbolism becomes wearying however, and Jerry Skolimowski doesn't have the even hand of Gus Van Sant's "Gerry" or Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line", which explore similar themes.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Mar 16, 2012
    An endurance test, for both the main character and the audience. I didn't care for this film exercise without any real plot, hardly any dialogue, and often glacial pacing. Vincent Gallo deserves recognition for putting himself through the wringer, but I watched this because of Emmanuelle Seigner's prominent placement in the credits, so imagine my disappointment when she doesn't show up until the thing is almost over - and she's a deaf/mute!
    Doctor S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    While not immediately involving or interesting, "Essential Killing" is taut and well-directed, and Vincent Gallo is brilliant in his wordless role. The deliberate pace may prove agonizing for some, but I enjoyed "Essential Killing." Sure, it's nothing to write home about, but there are some well-made moments. It's got enough entertainment value to earn my recommendation.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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