I love the controversy surrounding Killer Elite. The film is based upon a novel entitled The Feather Men, which claims to be true ( more at FilmSchoolRejects ) the way your roommate keeps claiming he doesn’t know who was looking up stuff online. Despite the fact that the author, Raunolph Fiennes, dubiously describes his story as factional, it’s pretty obvious that everything in the full movie is made up. But that’s OK, because with that ridiculous “true story” business out of the way, you can actually sit down and watch a solid work of assassination fiction featuring the always welcome efforts of Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, and Clive Owen’s mustache.
Staham plays a dude named Danny. He used to be a badass assassin, but when a kid shows up during one of his hits, he moves to Australia, which sort of raises the question of his sanity… and honestly, what’s the big deal about killing a kid? They’re just little adults who bleed a whole lot less… certainly no reason to move to Australia.
One day, a letter arrives in the mail. In the letter, Danny sees that his friend is being held hostage by some Middle Eastern guy. It turns out the Middle Eastern guy wants Danny to kill British Special Forces guys in exchange for his friend’s freedom. With that knowledge, Danny assembles a crew of two people, and sets about killing bastards… the only catch is that the kills must look like accidents and the marks must confess their evil deeds on video online. This all sounds easy enough, until Owen’s mustache shows up toting a human body along with it. It turns out the Owen’s-stache doesn’t want these guys killed and it will stop at nothing to keep Jason Statham from succeeding.
Director Gary McKendry’s film is about as safe as it gets. Everything is crisp, in control, and completely lacking the dynamic flair that would turn this film into an instant classic. McKendry doesn’t take any chances with Killer Elite, and the movie is a middling affair because of it. There’s nothing all that bad about the movie, but the missed potential will leave some finds feeling empty, you know, the same way real human beings feel after watching some reality show like “So You Think You Can Dance.” The action scenes are done tastefully enough to not feed the action fan’s bloodlust. Safety is the name of the game here.
It’s a shame to watch such a solid cast of characters wasted on a mediocre story that never achieves its full potential. Jason Statham is great as the same character he plays in every movie. If his choice of acting roles is any indication of his personality, you can be fairly positive that this dude eats the same thing for breakfast every morning… coffee, a cheese Danish, and wads of cash. Clive Owen, as he usually does, outshines the other characters. It’s been a while since we’ve watched Owen in anything but fluffy-covered stuff, but he makes a nice return to the action genre, albeit with one of the worst mustaches you’ll ever see. Robert De Niro must have run out of quarters, because for the first time in a long time, he doesn’t phone this one in. Granted, his role is small, but he works with what he’s got. Dominic Purcell also steals some scenes as Davies, Statham’s right hand man. Purcell’s goatee puts Owen’s mustache to shame.
Action-wise, Killer Elite is rated-R, but honestly, it could have been done as a PG-13 flick. It’s not particularly brutal, and most of that R-rating is due to swearing and excessive shots of molestaches. The kill count could be higher, but more creativity and brutality would have gone a long way towards making this film better.
Killer Elite isn’t going to stick with many people for long, but it is entertaining enough for a one time watch, especially if you find it online free. I know how many Dominic Purcell fans there are out there. When the remake comes out twenty years from now, I hope they nut up a little bit and do the violence the way it should be done.
This had loads of potential, but it goes nowhere. This is a safe action full of safe moments and kills. It’s worth a watch, but not much more unless it’s free. And remember – if someone describes his book as factional, that means it’s all made up.