Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro – it’s a formidable acting lineup that should translate into breakneck, head-cracking, fast-paced action.
But if you’re expecting the standard Statham fare, you may be pleasantly surprised by what can only be described as a gentle change of formula. Unfortunately, the formula is missing a few ingredients.
Killer Elite is branded as being ‘based on a true story’. That is probably a little misleading – it is very loosely based on the Ranulph Fiennes book The Feather Men, which in itself was rather controversial in its claim of being non-fiction (it was later released as fiction).
Danny Bryce (Statham) is a mercenary, and the protege of veteran soldier-of-fortune Hunter (De Niro). After retiring, Bryce is pulled back into the game when Hunter is kidnapped by an Arabian sheik. His demand: that Bryce hunt down and kill the three former SAS soldiers that killed the Sheik’s sons.
Accepting the assignment, Bryce ends up in the cross hairs of Spike (Clive Owen), a former SAS officer who’s now the point man for a secret organisation called ‘The Feather Men’, dedicated to protecting former SAS officers from violent retaliation. We can all pretty much picture how it pans out.
But the film’s pacing is actually surprisingly slow and very deliberate, which is refreshing when mixed with the regular injections of explosive and well-choreographed action. At almost two hours though, it is probably a little too slow to win over the hardcore action fan, and the story feels like it drags about 40 minutes or so longer than it should considering how little substance there is to it.
The film itself feels dark and gritty. It is set in the 1980s, and does a fair job of recreating the environment of the time, without overstating it. The plot though strays into some very murky moral territory, and one of the main problems with Killer Elite is the fact that there is no discernible person to root for. Both Statham and Owen’s characters are working against each other, and instead of having a hero to follow the entire story through, it’s easy to identify with both sides being in the right.
Boasting three such enormous names in the action genre, it is also disappointing how little time DeNiro, Statham and Owen actually spend together on screen. Their three character arcs develop largely independently of each other, and we get only glimpses of what could have been.
The surprising scene-stealer though is Dominic Purcell (of Prison Break fame) as one of Statham’s cronies; an Aussie hard-man sporting a glorious handlebar moustache (there is some fine moustachery in this film) and has a major axe to grind with the Special Air Service.
In the end, this is a film that, with a little more care, could have pleased both lovers and haters of the standard Jason Statham violence-fest. In the end, it does little to win over either side, though remains a passable, if forgettable, action flick.
2 ½ Stars