Some actors become known for playing a multitude of roles that demonstrate their versatility in expressing the human condition. Jason Statham is known for playing Jason Statham. His actual name in a movie is almost irrelevant, what he presents is the same no-holds barred action extravaganza that we as an audience have come to expect by now. But when he’s teamed up with other action heavyweights like Robert De Niro and Clive Owen, what can we expect from this all-star cast?
PLOT: When his mentor is taken captive, a retired member of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader.
DIRECTOR: Gary McKendry
CAST: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro
AGE RESTRICTION: 16 (Violence, Language, Sex)
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The year is 1980. Danny (Statham) is a member of a mercenary squad along with his mentor Hunter (De Niro). After a mission gone wrong in Mexico, Danny retires to Australia (which, as a side note, brings up the point that makes me wonder whether Jason Statham contractually requires his hired killers he plays to always want “out of the game.”) Nevertheless, his peace is broken a year later when he receives a message that Hunter has failed an important mission, and is being held as the captive of a Sheikh in Oman. Danny is given the task of assassinating 4 former SAS soldiers who were responsible for the death of the Sheikh’s son, and he is required to make each death look like an accident, as well as capture the confession of each soldier on camera. If he fails, Hunter will be executed. Added to this elaborate set up is Spike Logan (Owen) a member of a mysterious group called the Feathermen, who protect the interests of former SAS members, and is therefore out to stop Danny from completing his mission.
This film is McKendry’s feature film début as a director, and right off the bat he’s managed to learn that any action film is infinitely improved if we as an audience care about what’s being blown up, who’s being shot and why. Exciting set pieces can only carry you so far, and for the rest you do require some characterisation and plot development. In this sense, Killer Elite achieves. De Niro brings his veteran talents masterfully to the film, and his scenes of interactions with Statham are genuinely enjoyable. Statham’s scenes with Owen are slightly less nuanced, but as they are adversaries, I suppose this one can slide.
The film does suffer from some pacing issues, with a lot of jumping around time and space, sometimes seemingly around the world. This can draw attention away from what’s really important and can often be terribly distracting to the plot. Some plot elements, such as Danny’s lady friend Anne (played by Chuck’s Yvonne Strahovski) are entirely non-essential in any way, although the Pretty Lady Quota was probably running a bit low at this point.
Killer Elites plot, as ridiculous as it may sound, is made more intriguing upon learning that this film is apparently based on a true story, detailed in the 1991 book The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes. Fiennes is known as the greatest living explorer, but famously had a past in the SAS, during which time he claims to have learned of these events. Several of the plot points and those involved were changed for the film, but the essential details remain true, according to Fiennes even today. Stranger things have been true before in history, but whether you personally believe this or not, it does add to the sense of thrill while watching the film.
Killer Elite presents a capable action film with capable actors. The sights and sequences are what you could hope for in such a film. You will almost certainly be guaranteed to have fun, but this film will especially be appealing to true action-fans. Definitely worth a rental with friends at least once.