Directed by: Gary McKendry
Cast: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins
Release Date: September 23, 2011
PLOT: An ex-special ops agent (Statham) comes out of quiet retirement when his mentor (De Niro) is kidnapped by a sheik in Oman who wants revenge for his three sons as ransom. He is sent around the world to track down the man’s son’s killers, but is being chased by Spike (Owen) the leader of a secret military organization called “The Feather Men.”
WHO’S IT FOR? Action fans will find this dull, and even Statham apologists will be hoping for its swift end. Those who live to see Robert De Niro hold guns should see this, and that’s it.
EXPECTATIONS: Not much to take away from the trailer, other than sunglasses, guns, and Clive Owen’s mustache. All three of them have seen bright days in action, but at the same time, they’ve seen some pretty damn dark ones too (especially Statham). What’s De Niro doing here? Is this going to be one of his “paycheck” movies that he talked about last year during the Golden Globes?
Jason Statham as Danny: Jason “What’s the job?” Statham is going through his action movie motions here, which include using his baldhead as a battering ram, fighting dirty, using a chair as a weapon, and jumping long distances. He even continues his goal to be taken seriously as a secret softy, as there are TWO different sequences in which he looks out an airplane window and has flashbacks to his lover left back in the country (Anne Strahovski).
Robert De Niro as Hunter: Though he’s only on screen for maybe 20 minutes total, De Niro is still able to make it clear to audience that this role is a bored yearning for excitement. He lacks any presence here except for being his famous actor self, and the movie tries to turn his appearance into that of a crowd-pleaser. He gets the coolest action moment (a sharp shot with a silencer) and the movie’s moments of comic relief, which serve as Killer Elite’s only novelty moments.
Clive Owen as Spike: Poor, poor Clive Owen. He gets some of the worst lines in the movie, the weakest action moments, and a glass eye to boot (Danny calls him an “icon.”) Was there some type of straw-pulling contest to see who had to say, “B-I-N-G-F**king-O”? He’s even got a stupid name and an even goofier lip pillow donned on his face like a giant hairy wart we’re all hesitant to alert him of.
TALKING: Yikes. “You have no idea who you’re f**king with.” “The first thing you should but is a pair of balls.” And of course, the Clive Owen line mentioned above. Action movies tend to have some pretty bad dialogue. Killer Elite is another idiot addition to that common occurrence.
SIGHTS: Equally as tossed-together and tension-less as the story are the movie’s action sequences, which often consist of sporadic car chases in pedestrian vehicles, or indecipherable chicken fights between Owen and Statham. A moment in which Statham uses a chair as a weapon might be Killer Elite’s shining few seconds, but this scene quickly loses any shred of its cool when Statham dives out of a window and lands neatly on a truck bed.
SOUNDS: The most bombastic element of Killer Elite is its sound design – this movie is LOUD. From the first exploding car to all the bullets fired throughout, this movie mixes high to distract audiences from the visual weakness of the action sequences themselves. At the very end of the movie, the score borrows a page or two from the South American chase scene in Inception.
BEST SCENE: Hard to say. Statham landing on someone with a chair is a fun Transporter-like moment, and then it all vanishes.
ENDING: De Niro takes a share of the money after a sunglasses stand-off in the desert. Statham returns to his girl, who still doesn’t bother to ask him what the hell is going on.
QUESTIONS: I had heard that De Niro is the kind of actor who doesn’t just give you a response when you act with him, you have to earn it. Perhaps he gave that up this round? Are we so sure Drive came out just last week?
REWATCHABILITY: Very unlikely. I can imagine this is the movie I’d watch with my dad, but we’d both nod off only forty minutes into it.
With Killer Elite I’m convinced that Jason Statham is really trying to nudge audiences towards the connection between an assassin and a Blockbusting actor. After all, Statham has taken all kinds of jobs – The Bank Job The Italian Job etc. And what makes assassins so different from actors? Both occupations require doing the job in whatever fashion they’re instructed to, collecting the money that apparently makes it all worthwhile, and then even attempting to the mission completely behind them, for the sake of grinning and bearing other similar missions. Isn’t this a pretty solid explanation of a large chunk of Statham’s career of head butting and rifle-firing?
This comparison is fitting for the entirety of Killer Elite a super sloppy movie that bumbles itself just like its ill-executed hits that happen with in the actual story, where friendly fire leads to unnecessarily casualties, and stupidity fools even the simplest of jobs. The idiots in Killer Elite are by far from “elite,” and this movie is hardly a swift or successful job.
The main story of Killer Elite collapses under the low IQ of a script that can’t support the main (and true) story, which requires more than just an appetite for action clichés to be correctly told.
Killer Elite takes place in the ‘80s, and the movie’s stern stance on keeping the “fashionable” look of that decade doesn’t prevent the movie from being even sillier (something that happens with another generic movie like Tombstone). This movie about killers is rife with dummy mustaches, leather jackets, and sunglasses. These are only “macho men” if we’re referring to the song by the Village People.
This highly-disposable action flick never finds footing with its plot, it just keeps pushing itself onto its audience until it’s all over, and De Niro, “the voice of experience,” has made some smirky wisecrack. Killer Elite is a purported “cat and mouse” thriller where everybody loses.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10