Critic’s Choice: ‘Ben Wheatley: Confusion and Carnage’ investigates a director’s dark gifts

Tom Hiddleston in the 2016 movie “High-Rise,” directed by Ben Wheatley.
(Aidan Monaghan / Magnolia Pictures)

The prodigiously talented British director Ben Wheatley makes the kinds of films whose images — much like the skillfully wielded hammer in his nightmarish thriller “Kill List” — have a way of lodging themselves in the brain. But his movies offer far more than a post-Quentin Tarantino wallow in nihilistic violence, as the critic Adam Nayman argues smartly and meticulously in his rich new study of the director’s career, “Ben Wheatley: Confusion and Carnage” (The Critical Press).

The book’s title phrase, which hints at Wheatley’s considerable skill at dramatizing all manner of bloody chaos, comes from the director’s auspicious debut feature, “Down Terrace.” That 2009 film is astutely analyzed here along with “Kill List,” “Sightseers,” “A Field in England,” “High-Rise” and the still-forthcoming “Free Fire,” which opens April 21 in theaters.

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