Killer Elite opened across the country yesterday. On the surface, as well as below the surface, the film looks and feels like one of those testosterone filled actioners with chases, explosions, a variety of killings and weaponry, a sexy woman or two, some older men pulling the strings and issuing orders from the high ground, locations that hopscotch around the globe, plus some complicated double or triple crosses.
Then there’s the familiar desire to get out of the assassination business but there’s one last job to be done.
The film is all of the above and yet, the package delivered to us is less than the sum of its parts.
From that list, I’m sure that you can all imagine that you’ve seen this film before – and you have. Likely with a different title, and different or similar actors. The lead actors – Jason Statham, Clive Owens, and Robert De Niro have all appeared in films like this one.
Statham was in The Italian Job and The Transporter films, Owens starred in The International as an interpol cop who operated like an independent contractor as well as being an assassin in the first Bourne film, and even De Niro played a mercenary for hire in Ronin. If you are reading this review, then there’s a good likelihood that you’ve seen all of those films.
Killer Elite is not so much to think about. The leads are more than sufficient. They do exactly what you expect of them.
You know what I mean – they travel without luggage, or weapons, and arrive in places like Mexico, Oman, London, Paris, and even Australia’s outback without any concerns about passports, local currencies, or logistics of any kind. We are just expected to overlook these facts. In fact throughout the entire film we see not even one policeman. Yet mayhem occurs seemingly every 10 minutes. The leads never lack ammo, autos, or even cash. Sometimes they do lack smarts; which seems to run rampant in films of this ilk.
For example, each of the three leads in this film is at one time, captured, or under the control of the opposition. For example – the Omani Sheik who hires Statham’s Danny is getting on in years, as well as dying in less than six months, has a whole barracks of bodyguards, and not one of them proved useful in the slightest. They are mowed down, killed, maimed, or rendered unconscious in less time than it takes to write this sentence. So the question is – how did they get hired as bodyguards, and who hired them.
- Then of course we have the secret society, or cabal, or rogue wing – long a staple of the spy/action thriller. I can take you back to Three Days of the Condor (1975) when Robert Redford and Cliff Robertson discussed a CIA within the CIA and which illegally operated in the United States itself. Or the shadowy government presences in The Pelican Brief(1993) or Clear and Present Danger (2004). More recently we have spycraft and geopolitics in the Bourne films, in Syriana (2005), The Green Zone (2010), and even Sweden had its secret bad guys as we saw in The Girl Who Played With Fire.
In this film, the secret society is a group of ex-SAS operatives, with SAS as the acronym for Britain’s elite special forces. Here they’re called Feather Men because their touch is so light as to be invisible – but nonetheless as deadly as any that came before it.
De Niro adds something to the mix – but not nearly enough as you hoped for. In fact he shows a decidedly soft side when he only shoots out the tires of Owen’s car in a high speed pursuit. Of course there might be a good explanation for that – see the next paragraph.
Well Statham and Owens, as Danny and Spike, have their share of rough and tumble moments. While I can’t quite get to the point where I can say they liked each other (… You have no idea of who you’re fucking dealing with…), it does look like there was an intentionally open-ended script by writer/director Gary McKendry which of course might get him another double pay day.
Me? I going to give this one no more than a B minus. It is exciting, and there plenty of shots fired, people being pummeled, and even a roof-top chase which ends abruptly when the guy with the gun says to the guy dangling off the roof – “Move and you die…“.
Like I said – you’ve seen all of this before.