Killer Elite is a Jason Statham film and just hearing that should tell you what 90% of this film is like: the laconic stubbly-faced and stubbly-headed Statham beating and shooting the crap out any gormless, incompetent thug or rival assassin who crosses his path.
With its name cast, which includes Robert De Niro and Clive Owen and its very loose fact-based story, however, Killer Elite offers a little more than the usual Statham action fare.
Statham plays Danny an expert hit man and mercenary who along with his mentor De Niro, earns his living assassinating unfortunate folks in third world countries. After a disastrous mission, he wants out but his dreams of a bucolic retirement in the Yarra Valley with his girlfriend (Yvonne Strahovski) are shattered when, De Niro is kidnapped by an Omani Sheik and to free him, Danny is forced to hunt down former British SAS agents who killed the Sheik’s sons.
This film is annoyingly inconsistent as it constantly switches from credible, exciting espionage thriller to dumb-ass action flick.
The scenario of an elite hitman doing battle with the SAS is exciting in itself added to which are plenty of exotic international locations, fierce fight scenes and generally well-staged destruction. Unfortunately, there’s also major script problems including characters comically over-explaining what’s happening like Basil Exposition in Austin Powers. There’s also lots of hideous clunky dialogue that wouldn’t have been out of place in an Arnie movie from the 80’s.
To the extent that his skull-cracking character allows, Statham is a charismatic screen presence; the film’s attempts to paint him as a killer with a conscience, however, are laughable.
Also ridiculous – particularly for a purportedly true story – is Statham’s indestructibility. No bullet, car crash or fall from a tall building can harm the man and it gets to the point where you’re thinking, “bad guys, just give up”.
Fortunately, solid support from De Niro who convincingly kicks bottom and Clive Owen as a hitman for a secret society tangled up in the Oman killings, lend this film more credibility.
Set in 1980 the film also has a likeable retro feel, occasionally resembling a big budget episode of action series The Professionals.
Having been shot partly in Melbourne its amusing to see familiar locales masquerading as Parisian cafes and Metro stations. It’s also amusing to see local actors such as Lachy Hulme and Ben Mendelsohn trying to play British hard men.
Action junkies will enjoy this one immensely but those looking for something deeper will be disappointed when they consider what could have been.
- What’s on Built For Speed, Friday 2nd March 2012
- What’s on Built For Speed, Friday 18th May 2012
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- Film review: THE ACCOUNTANT, from ‘Built for Speed’