In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
Mike Locken is one of the principal members of a group of freelance spies. A significant portion of their work is for the C.I.A. and while on a case for them, one of his friends turns on him and shoots him in the elbow and knee. His assignment, to protect someone, goes down in flames. He is nearly crippled, but with braces is able to again become mobile. For revenge as much as anything else, Mike goes after his ex-friend.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Martial Arts expert Hank Hamilton developed a new method of instructing the actors specifically for this film, in order to technically direct the savage kung fu battle on the decks, and also from the crow's nest of the Mothball fleet. See more »
When Mike's semi-permanent plaster casts are finally removed after many weeks or even several months, they cover surgical wound dressings with stitches under them, which are both also removed. Not only do the dressings show no signs of being in place for so long (they look very fresh and clean), but also the skin under the stitches shows no sign of the surgical incision at all, the skin is original and unbroken. See more »
[looking at fake taxi cab]
Well it, uh, blends in all right. What else has it got that makes it so charming?
Gas tank is tucked under the rear seat. Steel plate wrap-around, reinforced bumpers. And it's a fully blown engine.
How come we never used it before?
I just got it, Mike. Some union guy put it all together, bulletproof glass, and then they shot him in bed. I got it from his widow.
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This film is a work of fiction. There is no company called Communications Integrity NOR ComTeg and the thought the C.I.A. might employ such an organization for any purpose is, of course, preposterous. See more »
The problem with "The Killer Elite" is that just by seeking this film out, and investing time to watch it, you are putting more effort into the experience than many of its principals did, particularly director Sam Peckinpah.
The already volatile Peckinpah was heading into rough weather with this film. According to at least one biographer, this was where he became acquainted with cocaine. Add to that his binge drinking, and it's no wonder things fell apart.
It's a shame, because the concept behind the film is a good one, and the first ten minutes promise much. Mike Locken (James Caan) and George Hansen (Robert Duvall) are private contractors who do a lot of dirty work for the CIA. They move quick, live well, and seem like the best of friends - then something happens to shatter their brotherhood.
An opening scene shows them blowing up a building - why exactly we aren't told, par for the course in terms of this film's murky motivation. But the implication is these guys hurt people and don't really care - antiheroes much like the Wild Bunch of Peckinpah's not-so-long-ago. An opening title tells us they work for ComTeg, then adds with obvious tongue in cheek "...the thought the CIA might employ such an organization for any purpose is, of course, preposterous." That's a pretty clever way of letting the audience know all bets are off.
Add to that a traditionally strong Peckinpah backup cast, including Burt Young, Gig Young, and Peckinpah regular Bo Hopkins in the plum role of a madman who can't pass up an opportunity to be shot at for $500 a day, and you only wish that the scriptwriters, including the celebrated Sterling Silliphant, tried to do something more with the story than turn it into a platform for lazy one-liners and bad chop-socky knockoffs. An attempt at injecting a dose of liberal social commentary is awkwardly shoehorned in. "You're so busy doing their dirty work, you can't tell who the bad guys are," someone tells Locken, as if either he or we need it pointed out.
Worse still are Peckinpah's clumsy direction and sluggish pacing. We're 40 minutes into the film before we get our first battle scene, a completely chaotic collection of random shots where a bunch of people we haven't even met before are seen fighting at San Francisco Airport, their battle intercut with a conversation in an office suite.
By the end of the film, what's left of the cast is having a battle inside a fleet of mothballed Victory Ships, ninjas running out in the open to be gunned down while Caan tosses off one liners that undercut any hint of real suspense. "Lay me seven-to-five, I'll take the little guy," he wisecracks just before a climatic samurai duel between two ninja warriors - from China, which we all know is the land of the Ninja. (The battle takes place in San Francisco, but surprisingly no Mounties arrive to break things up.)
Caan is much better in smaller scenes, like when Locken, recovering from some nasty injuries, is told by one of his bosses, played by a smooth Arthur Hill, that he's been "Humpty-dumped" by the organization. Caan refuses to stay down, and his recovery scenes, though momentum-killing for the movie, feature fine acting from him and Amy Heflin, Van's daughter, as a supportive nurse. Caan was one of the 1970s' best actors, and his laconic byplay with Heflin, Duvall, Hopkins, and both Youngs give "Killer Elite" real watchability.
But you don't watch "Killer Elite" thinking about that. You watch it thinking of the film that got away.
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