Based on a true story. A lot of movies seem to use this term very loosely. To make things clear, director Gary McKendry’s “Killer Elite” is based on the 1991 book entitled “The Feather Men” written by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Its claims as factual have been denied by governments and has sparked controversies. Fiennes did say that it would be up to the reader to decide if it was fact or if it was fiction. But I guess “Killer Elite” won’t be helping in its arguments of authenticity. Judging from its trailers, one could easily conclude that the film is an action film, and any complexities the book may have served up would be lost. The screenplay written by McKendry and Matt Sherring focuses on action and simply uses its political undertones as a backdrop. Oh, I almost see any movie with Robert De Niro….
Now I haven’t read the book, but it would be safe to assume that some of its characters did make it to the film. It is the 1980’s and Jason Statham (Crank 2) plays Danny, a former member of Britain’s Elite Special black ops group. When his former mentor and friend Hunter (Robert De Niro) is captured by the group of a wealthy sheik who wants vengeance for the murder of his sons. Danny agrees to take it on himself to fulfill Hunter’s missions in exchange for his release. The mission: to kill three government assassins responsible for the death of the sheik’s sons. Danny enlists the aid of two friends (Dominic Purcell and Aden Young) to fulfill the mission, but in turn, they find themselves under the radar of another operative named Spike (Clive Owen, Shoot ‘Em Up) and the two teams try to outsmart each other. With the sheik’s life on a short lease, what happens is a cat and mouse game filled with mayhem and betrayal…
I am a sucker for action movies, and so, I may be a little biased towards the film. But I am not stupid, I know when a film is supposed to be much more and “Killer Elite” undoubtedly loses a lot of the source material’s depth in order to streamline the film‘s pace and ‘meat‘. I would imagine that the political thought and the controversial expose have been sacrificed to deliver a paint-by-numbers action thriller. I don’t mind a simple plot, but McKendry seems to have created this film for Jason Statham, who appears to have been typecast as an action star despite his success in two of Guy Ritchie’s films.
The film is pretty easy to follow and is very predictable. There is hardly any drama in its proceedings, and despite the injection of a female opposite (sexy Yvonne Strahovski, from TV’s “Chuck”) to bring a sympathetic nature to Danny’s character, it fails since she appeared so shamelessly underwritten. De Niro’s “Hunter” is one of those supporting ingredients that is cliché, but De Niro is a great actor and delivers whatever goods are possible from such a light role. He seemed to have given the film some needed personality in his subtle attempts at humor. Purcell and Young play characters that were there for cannon fodder while Owen seems odd playing the Statham’s opposing rival. Not to say, Owen wasn’t effective, but his character didn’t match some areas of his personality and his pursuit of the Feather Men never felt engaging or suspenseful.
“Killer Elite” seems a little too focused in its attempts to bring some intricacies to the script that while it had some good action sequences, it missed several opportunities for suspense and then drains what it could’ve achieved for action thrills. However, I did like that one-on-one fight between Statham and Owen, it had a lot of attitude and definitely tough and gritty; it may be the film‘s redeeming factor. The extended chase sequence that carried onto the rooftop and the way Danny’s team executed the kills can also be invigorating, but for some reason, McKendry fails on the emotional content to make the viewer feel the urgency of the situation and the stakes involved. He instead relies on shadows, tricky editing and shaky camera work to make the scenes seem exciting. I did like the way De Niro handled that subway scene, but then this is De Niro we are talking about; his very presence can just light up a scene.
Not really sure, the supposed true story appears to have been merely misrepresented and the action while cool, was very untidy. It all seems like another one of those clichéd Hollywood offerings that didn’t make my trip to the theater worthwhile. The film is definitely misdirected and underwritten; and the film feels like an opposite of what the source material could’ve been. The trailers did as advertise, and “Killer Elite” is one messy action trailer.
* out of **** Direction is not the problem in first-timer Gary McKendry's "Killer Elite" (which has nothing to do with the Sam Peckinpah film of the same name). No, the trouble is ultimately, to the very core, with the writing. An action film intent on relying on narrative and characters instead of non-stop action set pieces; alas, the film has plenty of style in the action, but close to none in the scripting. The man who penned this train-wreck goes by the name of Matt Sherring. … more