Killer Elite

22 Oct

Title: Killer Elite
Gary McKendry
Writer: Matt Sherring, based on the novel by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominic Purcell, Robert De Niro
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
110 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
Rotten Tomatoes: 

When I first looked at the cast listing for Killer Elite I couldn’t help but smile a little bit, I mean, technically it’s just another action movie for Jason Statham to kick some butt it, but the fact that the supporting players in this one were Clive Owen and Robert De Niro had me thinking this one might be much more fun than usual. And yet, while there’s certainly stuff to find amusing and entertaining in this one, it really never feels like much more than just that, like yet another Jason Statham movie, and the fact that it manages to waste the talents of Mr. Owen and Mr. De Niro is a true shame, and it makes Killer Elite just unnecessary fodder in these final months of the year in which it should all be about awesome films.

Just how much you enjoy Killer Elite will be pretty much depend on how much you like any other of those “Jason Statham movies”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually quite like Mr. Statham, and the fact that a guy who’s in his mid-forties is one of the world’s leading action stars is something I quite appreciate, especially considering that he really rose to prominence when he was about 35 and is really into his craft, unlike some of his Hollywood-manufactured counterparts, but the truth is the guy pretty much makes the same kind of film over and over again. I mean, he’s been in some awesome films throughout his career, he kicked it off with Guy’s Ritchies Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and his next one was Mr. Ritchie’s Snatch, which are two exceptional films, and then he was in The Italian Job, and even some of his leading roles in action films like The Bank Job (which was superb) and even both Crank films have been pretty good. All I meant is that if you look at photos of random films of his, many will look pretty much the same, the guy always looking like a man on a mission while his driving a car through fire or jumping through rooftops guns a blazin’, it’s all another day at work for Mr. Statham.

Killer Elite is this espionage-thriller sort of affair, with Mr. Statham, Mr. Owen and Mr. De Niro doing a helluva lot of killing while somehow avoiding being killed themselves, it’s all quite extraordinary really, and there certainly is some diversion to be had while you spend a couple of hours watching two really accomplished thesps and a guy who’s one of the only real actions stars alive today doing just that. And that really is a compliment to them, especially to Mr. Statham, because even if you’re part of the group that doesn’t like the films this guy makes, just imagine them without his imposing presence, without his macho kind of charisma, this guy makes these kinds of films be much more enjoyable than they really should be, without his sense of action-star gravitas this movie would be just immensely silly and and boring.

The movie is based on fact, even though the book it’s adapting got under some huge controversy about just how accurate it was, but the script really dulls down any sort of interesting stuff we could get from that source material and instead gives us a messy film that starts off like so many we have seen before, with a hit man who supposedly does his one last job then retires only to be pulled out of said retirement because he finds out that his partner and mentor has been taken prisoner. Now, I have two things to say about that, one is the fact that it’s Robert De Niro playing this mentor, and look, I don’t want to say a bad thing about Mr. De Niro because the guy has given us so many masterful performances through the years that one would sound really selfish if one kept asking for more, but it’s just that recently this living legend we have still working today has apparently stopped caring for his craft, for which all I can hope for is that Martin Scorsese gives him a call and stages a comeback. The other thing I have to say about it is that Mr. Statham starred in another film this year, The Mechanic (to which I gave a B- to) in which he was a hitman that had his life taken for a loop when something happened to his mentor, I told you this guy made the same movie over and over again.

To get his mentor free Mr. Statham has to find a trio of British SAS officers, get them on tape to admit to having killed the sons of a sheik and then kill them and make it look like an accident, he does that and he gets a few million dollars and his mentor walks free. And look, it’s an okay plot I guess, but there’s just nothing fresh in the execution or in the cluttered screenplay to make it stand out. Tracking down these officers and getting them to confess is just pretty straight-forward and the only things that amp the stakes up a little bit are the parts in which he has to make it seem like an accident, and some of the scenes with Spike, the Clive Owen character who’s a secret representative of SAS officers. And even when the whole plot line with Spike reaches its climax and a fight ensues the fight is just badly staged, with hyperactive camera work, weird zooms and bizarre editing trying and failing to make it seem interesting.

Killer Elite is not great, I don’t actually recommend it even, but, as usual, it’s really not Mr. Statham’s fault at all, because, like I said before, it’s because of him the movie is at least mildly amusing, he can still drive a fast car and get it on with gorgeous woman like only Jason Statham can, that’s who he is, he still looks super imposing and cool under pressure, it’s just that he’s still finding for that one right movie to really give him the rest of the parts for him to work with. One would have thought that with the actors and plot this one had assembled around him Killer Elite would be that movie, and there really is an absorbing international thriller somewhere in this film, but ultimately it’s just too messy narratively-speaking to ever finds its way.

Grade: C+


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