Mark Reviews Movies

Killer Elite


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Gary McKendry

Cast: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Yvonne Strahovski, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity)

Running Time: 1:45

Release Date: 9/23/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 22, 2011

Killer Elite opens with an assassination in Mexico, performed by three men who remain as undefined at the end of the movie as they are at the starting point. Two of them are recognizable actors, and the third is primarily identifiable as the guy who has a cigarette hanging from his lips in almost every scene in which he appears. There are plenty of other characters who enter into this mishmash of globetrotting missions (Every shift in location is subtitled and pointlessly so, since there's as little attempt to specify the details of various locales as there is in identifying the characters), supposed political intrigue, and fight after shootout after car chase of frenzied incomprehensibility, but only a few get the luxury of an exclusive trait or characteristic.

This is not a difficult story to tell, no matter how many times the screenplay (based on a "controversial" book by Ranulph Fiennescontroversial due to wide speculation that it was not, as the movie states, based on a true story) zigzag from country to country, but in the hands of first-time director Gary McKendry (who wrote the script with Matt Sherring), Killer Elite struggles to accomplish even basic coherence. It hardly helps that just about every character in this imprecise narrative is completely incompetent at his job, leaving behind corpse after corpse in one gigantic plot hole after another.

After the prologue, we catch up with Danny (Jason Statham) living the retired life in Australia (His life there with a woman (Yvonne Strahovski) is told in unenlightening flashbacks, begging the question: Do McKendry and Sherring not realizes that a flashback scene aboard an airplane is already a parody in and of itself?). Almost immediately after we settle in with his quiet life, Danny receives a package containing a photograph of his old partner Hunter (Robert De Niro, in a performance of phoned-in, dull line readings) holding a newspaper. He's being held hostage, and with a three-shot piece of shorthanded editing, Danny is in Oman to speak with the dying sheikh (Rodney Afif) who has kidnapped his old friend.

The job is to kill the three members of the British Special Air Services who were responsible for the deaths of three of the sheikh's sons (The fourth (Firass Dirani) is meant to take over for his father or perhaps not; the script hints at some tension between them, which—even though it's necessary for most of the climax to work—is never even somewhat explained). To aid in his hunt for the men, Danny calls Davies (Dominic Purcell), his old friend and accomplice in Mexico (The one with the ever-dangling cigarette), and a quiet man who's named Meier (Aden Young) but is only notable for the fact that he rarely speaks.

This is getting a bit ahead, though, and it must be pointed out that before Danny takes to recruiting his generic team of generic hitmen that he does try to break Hunter out of captivity, if only that it exemplifies the script's inability to utilize logic. After killing a few of the sheikh's men (using, in one instance, a gun silenced by a loaf of bread—seriously) to remove Hunter from his cell, the two find themselves confronted directly by a few more henchmen and give themselves up. There are no consequences for either man for this attempted escape, and Danny goes about his merry way of hunting down his targets and making their deaths look like accidents (The lesson, it seems, is that being in the employ of the sheikh or—as is shown in a later scene in which Danny does the virtually same to his men—the son is a rotten deal).

Meanwhile, a group of shadowy, aging, and balding British businessmen who used to work for the SAS (calling themselves "the Feather Men"—silly, I know) has assigned Spike (Clive Owen) to find out why their old buddies are dying in what, by all appearances, are accidents. Both Spike and Danny's teams leave loose ends, like being quite clearly visible while tracking each other or asking fairly direct questions about their targets in public, that lead to chase after futile chase (by car and on foot) and fire- and fistfights that are assembled with shaky, flashes of vague movement. A particularly superfluous one has Danny running and jumping across rooftops—with McKendry providing no awareness of the geography of the layout of the buildings—leaving him hanging precariously, only to be somehow safe and sound in the next scene.

The entirety of the movie makes about as much sense as that unexplained and irrational cliffhanger, and, actually, most scenes in the movie seem to exist solely out of some almost-existential need for their inclusion instead of being part of a cohesive whole. Killer Elite is a mess from the bottom up.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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