When a movie boasts a cast like Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro you would think that the movie would be something that is either really good thanks to the collection of action stars or really bad, but still entertaining on some sort of B movie level, but Killer Elite is neither of those scenarios, instead the film is a bore, with very little going on. The trailer promotes a slew of random action sequences, that look both awesome and silly to any action fan, but the actual film itself contains maybe 15 minutes of action, the rest of the film is bogged down by its crummy dialogue. The film should have tagged on a question mark at the end because I honestly didn’t know who the killer elite was/were.
Danny (Jason Statham) is old pals with Hunter (Robert De Niro). In the 80’s they did some wild jobs (kills) with each other and have built a very strong and stable friendship, but one day that all goes to shit. In the middle of slaughtering a few men Danny comes across a sad and helpless child, covered in family blood that Danny spilled. He decides that’s that and he’s out of the game. Danny relocates to Australia to live a peaceful life while Hunter continues to hunt. Things get sticky and Danny is called back to action in order to save Hunter’s life.
Danny accepts the offer almost immediately and begins doing what he does best, capping some motherfuckers. He takes a deal from “the sheik”, which involves assassinating some people from Mr. sheik’s past. Danny doesn’t ask any questions, he just gets his crew together and starts up the killing again, but things get even more sticky when Spike (Clive Owen) is thrown into the mix. Spike is one of those determined types who’s a part of a group that was involved with “the sheik” at one point in time. While Danny is slaying Spike’s associates, Spike is trying to figure out who Danny is and why he’s killing people. Being the noble gentleman that is he is, Spike takes liberties into his own hands and decides to track down Danny and his group of elite killers.
Things never go according to plan in Killer Elite and good people die while bad people live, but then end up dying too. The story isn’t that interesting because there really isn’t anything there. Take out all of the unnecessary words that literally get spoon fed to you (they appear on the screen various times throughout the film, almost acting like the opening scene for The Terminator) and the constant location change and Killer Elite is actually a plain and boring spy/assassin film. It is absolutely nothing like the trailers promote.
Statham, Owen, De Niro, tons of action and a kick ass song (but horribly remixed) by the Scorpions makes me start thinking of a fun action movie that is full of silly, but bloody violence with a paper thin story that could probably be laughed at. Killer Elite doesn’t have a paper thin story, but it does have a very weak one. The story never takes time to establish any importance and when it does try and give you some back story it wastes it on characters like Danny’s girlfriend.
The best thing Killer Elite has going for it is actor Dominic Purcell, who plays one of Danny’s killing buddies named Davies. Davies is the stylish one of the group and his style is constantly reminded with his excellent sideburns and a skillful set of charms that always picks up the ladies. Everyone else comes off as sad, tired or grumpy.
Statham’s Danny is in the tired and sad category because he doesn’t want to keep killing yet he sprung at the first chance when they told him about the pickle Hunter got himself into. Statham doesn’t bring anything to the role of Danny and he doesn’t really have to. He kills people, but he’s a softie with a heart.
Owen’s Spike is grumpy. Spike thinks he’s doing the right thing yet nothing ever goes according to plan. He always gets the short end of the stick, whether it is from his actual enemies or his friends that later end up being enemies. Owen does typical Owen in this, adding his quiet but bad ass traits that he’s known for.
De Niro’s brief appearance as the bearded man known as Hunter isn’t as cringe worthy as one might expect. His character is almost completely pointless, but at least he’s in an action picture and not some family comedy. Hunter takes the cake as sad, tired and grumpy. He’s sad and grumpy because his killing partner Danny really doesn’t want to do this anymore and he’s tired because he’s almost 70 and still hiding in holes in the middle of the desert for paychecks, which he apparently spends almost instantly on his family. Seriously though, how can a 5 million dollar job not last you and your family for at least a few years?
Killer Elite is not an action film at all and it made me question the casting decisions made and the marketing for the film. Why get guys that are known for their action and not their dialogue delivery in your film is 95% talking? Sure, De Niro was a pro back in his day but Statham hasn’t been known for his Oscar worthy performances, maybe Owen but surely not Statham. Killer Elite should have played out as a more traditional action film and less of a boring spy piece that sits in its own shit.
The film also needed a longer stop in post-production. The score was over dramatic for most of the film and it never gave the actors any room to speak. Danny would mention something to Hunter and then a sudden jolt of loud instruments would come across the speakers hinting at some sort of action shift or pivotal moment in the story only for Hunter to take a bite of a sandwich. When the dialogue finally got a minute to be alone with the screen it ended up sounding very fuzzy or muffled. Subtitles almost seemed like a must at this point.
I think it wouldn’t be fair not to note that Killer Elite is Gary McKendry‘s first film. As far as directing goes, Killer Elite is technically fine. The camera work is steady and most of the action scenes are comprehensible, but random shots, mostly during bits of dialogue, oddly go in and out of focus with the camera shifting, while the two characters are sitting completely still. It ended up taking away from the particular scene instead of enhancing it stylistically. Also, for taking place in a billion different settings Killer Elite really looks dull, visually. None of the locations have any sort of style or tone, which again is a minor complaint, but something still worth noting.
McKendry is on the right track, but he needs to spend more time working on the script, taking out unneeded details and adding more important character relationships and motives. Danny and Hunter’s relationship felt very half-baked, which was a constant problem considering the whole story revolves around Danny doing these missions solely for Hunter’s survival.
Killer Elite is nothing to be proud of. It had very little expectations to live up to and it managed to not live up to any of them. The performances are fine, but extremely dry and the lack of action really doesn’t help the film out at all. When the action is on screen it works really well, thanks to the steady camerawork by McKendry. Killer Elite is an incredibly generic film that fails to be engaging on any level. It’s a waste of time and money in theaters and not even worth a dollar rental when it hits home video. It’s one of those films that should go under the radar and hopefully never be watched by a paying customer, unless it’s on Spike TV or one of those guy channels that takes pride in showing manly movies, but even then Killer Elite would feel misplaced.
Killer Elite – 5.5/10