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I'm baffled by some of the reviews I've seen of this film. I saw it
this weekend and think it's really strong. Clive Owen and Jason Statham
are both excellent as... elite killers. The action is great, the story
is intricate and watching the plot unfold is just fun. You've got a
group of mercenaries on a dubious mission, a group of ex-SAS stumbles
on to them and then both sides are trying to figure out who the other
guys are and what they're up to. Maybe it throws some people that there
are no clear cut good guys and bad guys here. Both sides are
essentially bad guys acting out of a questionable sense of what is
right. But that's what made it interesting to me.
The film is at it's best when Owen and Statham are on screen together either coming after each other, fighting or staring each other down. Add a gun wielding, ass kicking De Niro into the mix and I'm happy sitting in a dark theater and munching popcorn.
I don't recall seeing a movie like this in a good, long time. It's a
macho-action-thriller that didn't have an A-list budget, but probably
didn't really need it, either. You used to see more of this back in the
70s and 80s; these days this kind of movie usually has a much bigger
budget, with the requisite special effects and massive action sequences
such a budget buys. Here, though, it's a little different.
Good action, intriguing setup (definitely no good-guy/bad-guy here; nobody is completely innocent by any stretch), and pretty good characters. And a story that's somewhat better than you usually find in this particular kind of film.
Don't know that Jason Statham's a great actor, exactly, but he's definitely a presence and he's got others to do the acting around him, and he performs in a several action scenes that come right up to the edge without getting silly. And I liked the basic plausibility in most of the scenes.
I'm a guy, and Killer Elite is a pretty decent "guy" movie. You could do worse.
I sensed what the movie-making powers that be were thinking when they
made this movie: Take 3 action stars + 1 super hot blonde = money.
Simple enough of a formula to get people in the theaters. My
expectations were not that high for this film. But what I found
reminded me of a "Bourne Identity" feel for some odd reason, but with
more action and less suspense. Injecting the film with reality was
Yvonne Strahovski, who made the story believable. I did like the whole
1980 thing the movie had going on as well, which some of these reviews
might've missed when they watched the film.
There are many memorable moments, none of which I'm going to tell you.
One of two issues I had with the film is the distance I felt with the characters. They felt close to each other on screen, but not close to me(if that makes any sense). I could've used 5 or 10 minutes getting to know the characters a bit better. Halfway through the film I realized I had forgotten all the character's names, and it was all facial recognition. Secondly, I could have used a bit more humor. I guess when making movies on real events it's hard to get a good laugh without coming off corny. I think they missed an opportunity there with Yvonne Strahovski's character.
I would've given this movie 7 stars, but it didn't seem right considering just how much enjoyment I got out of it and such a solid performance of the actors.
I'm not sure what it was about Killer Elite that disappointed me, but
it just didn't seem to live up to its potential. It might have been
that the movie relied on Jason Statham to act, instead of just do
action. He plays a retired hit man who gets pulled out of retirement to
save a friend's life. But it just doesn't work, he's unconvincing. The
retirement isn't convincing and neither is his reluctance to return to
work. He was much better in the Mechanic which dealt with similar
Overall the movie doesn't hold together very well. There is too much that they are trying to accomplish, but not enough gets developed. For instance, the romance between Danny (Statham) and Anne (Yvonne Strahovski) just seems to be cut in to the movie in a few places. The Feathermen (the group about whom the book the movie draws from is written) appear in a few scenes, yet they're role is barely explored. They are spliced in just enough to give Spike (Clive Owen) a support system.
It's not a terrible movie, but it could have been much more. I think it would make a better mini-series, so that the different parts could be explored properly. If not, eliminate the things that aren't given justice.
Decent acting from the supporting cast, an interesting story that is
thankfully absent any clichés, and a lack of any "gotcha" in the story
certainly help this movie stand out. But really it's the pacing that
made it for me. Things happen FAST. They happen logically, and
reasonably (well, reasonably given the nature of the story) but they
happen quickly. The movie does not have any periods of introspection
for our main characters. It suggests that they are having those
moments, but doesn't linger on them or play them up at all; they are
just facts, like everything else that happens in the movie (fights,
deaths, kidnappings, etc.).
The story is complicated, involving at least 5 separately motivated factions, but at no time was it confusing (so there was no need for an "aha!" moment).
The fight scenes were all exceedingly well choreographed and fit the story so well that there was never a time when 2 people were facing off just so we could see them fight; I really appreciated that.
All in all, a very satisfying film: lots of action, lots of very good acting, and lots of attention to detail (it really looked like it was the early 1980s).
I was going to give this a 7/10, but as I was writing and thinking about it, I upped it to 8/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Thoroughly entertaining and full of action much like Statham's
"Transporter" flicks except the plot is quite a bit more sophisticated
involving kidnapping and revenge killings by an Arab sheik, unexpected
double crosses and amazing chases, fights and escape sequences with a
gritty European/British flair and ambiance similar to "Taken".
The one thing I didn't like is a lot of the fight scenes are shot frenetically hand held and close up with very few pulled back master shots so you can see the choreography and tricky Krav Maga style self defense maneuvers similar to what was depicted in Statham's first "Transporter" movie which was the best out of the series IMO in this regard.
I mean I kept asking during the "Killer Elite" fight sequences..."What did he just do to that guy? I couldn't see it! Dang it!" instead of "Did you see what he did?! That's amazing!"
Oh well, at least I enjoyed this one more than "MoneyBall".
Robert DeNiro was the greatest actor of his generation. He brought a
new intensity to method acting during the New Hollywood era of American
film making . His star started fading in the early 1990s and by the
turn of the century critics would be scratching their heads as DeNiro
would appear in cameo roles in films that would surely have gone
straight to video . Why he did this no one knew . It certainly couldn't
have been to do with the simple reason of money but his prolific small
appearances in sub standard movies has long ceased to be a joke and has
affected his legacy . KILLER ELITE continues this career legacy suicide
There's something ridiculous watching a a 68 year old DeNiro getting in to a shoot out with bad guys but ridiculous doesn't even begin to describe KILLER ELITE a thriller based on a " true story" by former SAS soldier , explorer and adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes . Apparently in the early 1980s an Arab sheik upset that his son was killed by the SAS during the battle of Mirbat wants revenge .
The battle of Mirbat has passed in to British military folklore where a 9 man SAS team deserted by 40 Omani soldiers had to fight off 300 communist guerrillas in Oman circa 1972 . This battle is proved fact and Fiennes would have had more credibility if he'd presented his source novel The Feather Men as fiction . As it stands he was disowned by the regiment and journalists had a field day pointing out the unlikely occurrences in the novel . Of course many of the details can't be disproved but that's often the point of people publishing books that are fiction masquerading as fact. It should be remembered DeNiro also made a cameo in SLEEPERS another film based on a true life story that was quickly debunked
Watching a film based on a true story where you believe it to be fiction is a very irritating experience . Much of the selling point of this type of movie is that it happened in reality but you feel you're watching a cinematic adaptation of one of those books you buy at an airport while you have a very long plane journey in front of you . That's the impression I got while watching the film - a sort of pot boiler with guns , guys and car chases If the premise itself is irritatingly unconvincingso are the accents . This is a Hollywood /Australian co-production which means many of the actors are Aussies putting on English accents . Much of it is almost certainly filmed in Australia but I will restrain myself from using the word " obviously " because the director often uses establishing shots as a close up . Likewise action sequences are shot in close up too trying - and utterly failing - to convince the audience that the action is taking place in Britain . In fact when you do fleetingly see a sequence shot in Wales it jumps out at you because it's in long shot
This is a very disappointing thriller and much of this is down to the original source which exists more in the mind of the author rather than the real world . Even so if it had been promoted as a generic fictional revenge thriller it would have probably been criticised as being a rip off from Tom Clancey or the Bourne movies
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning
** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Set in 1980, Killer Elite is based on a true story, revolving around SAS agent Danny (Jason Statham) who owes everything to his friend and mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro.) So when he is taken hostage in Oman, Danny is forced to co-operate with the kidnappers demands: that the three soldiers responsible for the death of his son are hunted down around the globe and killed. But even when he goes through with the mission, he finds, as well as having to contend with the relentless Agent Spike (Clive Owen) that not everything is as it seems.
Holding true to it's claim of being a story spinning all round the globe, Killer Elite literally dashes with hyperactive energy from the deserts of the Middle East to the Australian outback, to European cities like Paris and London, all the while holding it's accolade of being a true story. But then fact is often stranger than fiction, and the exploits of Britain's elite special forces could no doubt throw up even stranger tales.
This is a slick, stylish enough film, that carries off it's various action sequences and tense moments with the requisite style and aplomb, even if it doesn't generate the amount of suspense it could have and the whole thing does feel a tad disjointed and sporadic.
Performances wise, Statham is simply the reliable sturdy action hero, while De Niro in support commandeers another generic performance and Owen as the adversary can resort back to his old wooden ways. Not a lot to write home about on that front, then, but thankfully it's not a film driven by this aspect and so the more superficial stuff that carries it through.
It's a messy, chaotic, sketchy and unbelievable (even for something based on a true story) film, but entertaining and enthralling enough to be well worth a watch. ***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Killer Elite begins with a bang and quickly trails off into a
convoluted story interspersed with violence. I'm still reeling that
director Gary McKendry was handed a gift-horse the calibre of Black
Caviar, in the form of his lead cast - DeNiro, Jason Statham and Clive
Owen. These are men at the height of their screen action powers and
presence. Yet McKendry manages to snatch banality from the jaws of
cutting edge entertainment in his handling of Killer Elite. The script
of this action thriller ends up playing like a gritty episode of
Downton Abbey. Why McKendry didn't simply refuse to shoot the script
until it made more sense, remains a mystery.
As for his use of the three stars, my four year old son knows what to do with his lead action figures. Bang them together incessantly. See and test what they're made of, and enjoy their awesome collisions. Mr McKendry doesn't understand this. He puts his action powerhouses on a double-decker bus narrative, stopping at all pedestrian chapters of the book.
One of the worst stops is the scene where Danny (Statham) takes some time out from the killing and mayhem to pay his girl a romantic visit on her farm. Here's Danny wandering up the paddock, his bag over one shoulder, while his girl tugs hay bales from the back of her range rover until she spots him and they have a hug and a smooch. A nookie and a cuppa later, Danny's put on his killer sneer and is back trying to save Hunter (DeNiro) from the baddies, whoever they are ( I gave up trying to follow it). Danny's romantic sojourn with his girl might have been a nice respite for him, but it was a mind numbing distraction from the action we'd been trying to follow. Trying being the operative word, and I certainly hope Mr DeNiro's character had his sudoku puzzle to pass the time while he waited for Danny's return to the action.
Clive Owen puts in a solid, admirable performance as Spike, the opposing private militia leader, as do Statham and DeNiro as special ops buddies. If it wasn't for this trio, the film would quickly sink into a clunky, confusing morass. Part of the problem is the difficulty many of the other actors, particularly the Australians, had in getting their characters to come off the screen. McKendry didn't give them the goods as a director. Ben Mendelsohn's dubious Scottish accent was a distraction from what his character was about. Statham's love interest, Yvonne Strahovski, gave her most winning smiles and happy happy joy joy reactions but failed to give any weight, or independent life, to her character, Anne. Her scenes with Statham resembled out-takes of the Aussie TV series, McLeod's Daughters. In her big scene with DeNiro she just didn't appear to know what to do. Aden Young as Meir held his own and was a screen presence to at least be interested in. Matthew Nable, though he didn't have a lot to do, was effective and convincing as Pennock. Lachlan Hume made a mess of the opportunity to nail his character Harris. His attempt at a Welsh accent too often provided unintentional laughs. Hume's talent needed some clear, firm directing, and he didn't get it. The final two nails in the Killer Elite performance coffin was the makeup of the major bad guy, Sheik Amr (Rodney Afif), and the approach of Firass Dirani as Bakhait, the Sheik's son.
Afif's Sheik looked like an escapee from a binned Disney movie. The type of villain you'd meet in a Bing Crosby - Bob Hope film. Each time he appeared on screen I couldn't take him seriously. Dirani showed his awesome ability and potential in Underbelly, The Straits and particularly The Combination. His performance in Killer Elite is all over the place. McKendry's not given him any useful direction to rectify it. What a huge waste. It's unfortunate, but it's this lack of direction that gradually makes the film so uneven, it drains interest. McKendry seems to have directed this by numbers and hoped things would turn out alright. How he landed a 70 million dollar film, with three of the biggest stars in Hollywood as leads, in his first ever feature film as a director, I'll never know. Statham, Owen and DeNiro must've been paid well. While so much else in this film sinks by comparison, they at least earn their money.
This movie is first-rate entertainment. It is one of the better action movies. Jason Statham and Clive Owen are great as operatives who try to out-fox each other, taking them all over the world. As for Robert DeNiro, he is, as usual, great. Although he's in a supporting role, his presence definitely adds to the movie's entertainment value. Yet the best feature of the movie is the story, which is clever, straightforward, and engages the audience. This movie has an unusual plot in that one is never certain who are the good guys and the bad guys. In fact, by the end of the movie, that question is still unanswered but by then it really doesn't matter because the story is more than just about good versus bad.
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