Recommended for anyone with a meth or crack addiction.
Let me begin with the admission that I am an unapologetic Jason Statham fan. For every regrettable film he has made such as the two Crank (2006 and 2009) movies, he has used his action figure persona to great effect in such genuinely enjoyable films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998); Snatch (2002); The Italian Job (2003); The Bank Job (2008); not to mention the three Transporter films (2002, 2005 and 2008).
Nonetheless, while Killer Elite is not as sophomoric as the previews would suggest, it plays out as if Statham and his co-stars Robert De Niro and Clive Owen are basically slumming for a quick paycheck. It has the feel of watching some high risk athletic event during the X Games on ESPN only with the addition of some of the participants getting shot before the finish line. It is testosterone laden, psychedelic eye candy.
Here we find Statham playing a weary professional assassin named Danny with a bit of a moral conscience. Seeking to retire in some remote, undisclosed location in Australia, he is called back to service when his longtime partner (played by De Niro) is captured and held hostage by a vengeful Arab sheik in Oman. It seems that the sheik’s price for freeing De Niro is for Statham to kill the men responsible for the assassination of his three sons.
Whatever suspense surrounds Killer Elite at that point gradually dissipates in the convoluted events surrounding Statham’s quest to kill the killers. While I don’t want to give the plot away in case any of you suffer a brain fade and decide to actually see the movie, suffice it to say that the men on Statham’s hit list are former British soldiers who have their own secrets to protect.
As Statham seeks his prey he himself becomes a target of a clandestine group of British businessmen capable of all sorts of dirty deeds while they try to wrangle favorable oil contracts from the aforementioned sheik’s surviving son. The hunter becomes the hunted and everybody has a grand old time engaging in creative ways to top the other in amoral, sadistic acts of violence.
I must confess that for all of its absurdity and mayhem, Killer Elite is mildly enjoyable on a surface level. There is no denying that Statham is authentic, likeable and genuinely convincing as an emotionally exhausted killer who just wants to return to the hot chick who waits for him in the Australian Outback. Dominic Purcell is actually the best thing in this film as part of Statham’s team, playing a Welshman named Davies, a man with a bad set of sideburns and a dry sense of humor.
The wonderful Clive Owen, who appears here for clearly unknown reasons, lends his considerable talents to the role of Spike, the enforcer for the British oilmen whose plans are inadvertently threatened by Statham’s lethal designs. Given Mr. Owen’s stellar resume [think Croupier (1998); Closer (2004); Sin City (2005); the absolutely spectacular Children of Men (2006) and Shoot ‘Em Up (2007), the wildly entertaining tongue-in-cheek gangster flick where he starred opposite Paul Giammati], I can’t help but believe that there will come a time in the future when he responds to interviewers’ questions concerning his reasons for accepting the role of Spike with the sheepish admission, “Actually, I don’t know what in the hell I was thinking!”
But one thing we don’t have to do is question the legendary Robert De Niro’s decision. I have long felt that Mr. De Niro has been clipping coupons for quite some time as reflected by his willingness to repeatedly participate in the God-awful Fockers movies.
Though the late Sir Lawrence Olivier opening admitted to aggressively appearing in a series of unfortunate films late in his career simply because he was dying of cancer and wanted to build up his financial estate, I obviously don’t have any inside knowledge as to why De Niro would continually be willing to sell his considerable reputation so cheaply. On the other hand, maybe the answer can be found in the scene contained in the previews where we watch De Niro joyfully taking wads of money out of a briefcase, stuffing them in his pockets with the comment, “I need a little to cover my expenses.” Could this have been a Freudian admission concerning his sole motivation to appear in the film to begin with?
Killer Elite is little more than powder puff entertainment with the feel of a stylish violent video game. The basic problem is that it tries to be a serious film right down to its cheesy, feel-good ending as opposed to simply embracing the self-mocking quality that made Statham and his comrades so much fun in Stallone’s The Expendables (2010).
In any event, enter at your own risk, and consider yourself warned.