“The Kill Room” opens with a hulking Reggie (Joe Manganiello) walking down the street listening to a true crime podcast. He enters a bodega to complain about a bad cup of coffee, only for the combative owner to tell him to shove off. Reggie chokes the owner to the ground, and the skid marks from his heels, as the man struggles to breathe, fade into a painting with similar broad strokes. It’s a clunky beginning that gives way to even clunkier early plotting. But sophomore director Nicol Paone’s “The Kill Room,” a comedically broad critique of the art world through a crime-thriller lens, does get better.
It finds some footing when Gordon (Samuel L. Jackson), a Black Jewish deli and bakery owner in league with the mob, approaches Patrice (Uma Thurman) with a tantalizing offer:
His lumbering assassin, Reggie, will make paintings purely for a high valuation as a means for money laundering. All she has to do is keep the art at her gallery and make sure it isn’t actually sold. In return, she gets a sizable cut. The deal is too good for the cash-strapped Patrice, who’s on the verge of losing her gallery and all of her clients, to turn down. But after her intern publicly shares photos of the art, the paintings become a sensation in the art world. Soon, everyone demands to buy the works of the artist Patrice called The Bagman.