‘Killer Elite’ Mistakes Cliché For Action

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 1.0/5.0
Rating: 1.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “Killer Elite” is an exhausting, nonsensical, illogical, loud collection of action clichés masquerading as a modern action film. It features characters less three-dimensional than most cartoons doing and saying things that are only done and said in movies. Bad movies. Really bad movies.

From the “based on a true story” text that reminds us that the world was in a state of chaos in the early ‘80s to the opening scene that offers the only reason to like killer Danny (Jason Statham) – he doesn’t kill children! – “Killer Elite” doesn’t just exploit clichés of the genre, it feels like it wouldn’t exist without them. Danny is soft-spoken and loyal to his mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro) so that makes him a good guy. Who cares that he’s a killer, right? As long as he looks longingly out airplane windows and remembers the happier times with his lovely girlfriend (Yvonne Strahovski), we’ll go along with him. Never mind that he’s boring, annoying, and kind of dumb.

Danny gets caught in an international drama when Hunter is taken hostage by the sheik of Oman and our hero is forced to execute the SAS agents who allegedly killed the sheik’s other sons. He has one remaining offspring and he wants to make sure his enemies know that he best not be messed with after the sheik dies. Danny gets a team together, including the larger-than-life Davies (Dominic Purcell) and their activities soon draw the attention of Spike (Clive Owen), an agent wondering why his people are getting killed.

Killer Elite
Killer Elite
Photo credit: Open Road Films

Based on author Ranulph Fiennes’ novel, “Killer Elite” is reportedly inspired by a true story, which makes the blanket of clichés that have been thrown on it all the more annoying. Some of the details of “Killer Elite” may have gone down in something resembling this manner but I’m sure it didn’t happen with this degree of cheesy dialogue and gigantic plot holes. It also didn’t go down with another lazy performance from Statham and work from De Niro that proves yet again that he’s purely in it for a paycheck. He looks about as believable holding a gun as my grandfather would at this point and delivers his lines in such a lazy manner that you can practically hear him calling his limo to get to his next paycheck gig while his co-stars deliver theirs. He’s just not there.

But, then again, it’s hard to blame him. Writers Gary McKendry and Matt Sherring give the viewer nothing in which to invest. I have no problem with a lack of believable characters in the pursuit of escapist action but even that fails miserably in “Killer Elite.” McKendry also directs and has little idea how to construct an enjoyable action sequence. Fights are of the quick-cut variety in which the viewer is supposed to be thrilled by the fact that they have no idea what’s going on. It’s from the “confusion increases adrenaline” school of action. No, confusing action scenes are just annoying. Not everyone can do what Paul Greengrass does. There are a few decent chase scenes and tense moments brought about as Danny’s team tries to execute their latest target, but the movie never builds an engaging rhythm.

Killer Elite
Killer Elite
Photo credit: Open Road Films

Some of the writing in “Killer Elite” is so horrendous that it’s likely to inspire audible derision – I couldn’t believe not only that they went to the “airplane window flashback” well twice but that both featured Strahovski’s thankless girlfriend role in such a ridiculously clichéd manner that she’s baling hay at one point and firing a shotgun in another. Eventually, she’s literally just wandering the streets wearing a sign that says, “Please don’t kidnap me for a final act emotional thrust.” Well, that last part’s not literal, although it might as well be. I laughed out loud at “Killer Elite” more than at “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” but that’s not meant to be a compliment.

Most of all, “Killer Elite” is just BORING. I never once cared an iota what happened to Danny, Hunter, Spike, the dude from “Prison Break” with the awesome sideburns, the guy who smokes a pipe, or that hay-baling chick from “Chuck.” There’s zero character investment here and no enjoyable action to take its place. A title like “Killer Elite” inspires visions of high-octane action and cleverly-constructed firefights. Don’t be fooled by this one.

“Killer Elite” stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Yvonne Strahovski, and Dominic Purcell. It was written by Gary McKendry and Matt Sherring and directed by McKendry. It opens on September 23rd, 2011 and is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

manny world's picture

Killer Elite

These actors are old and are doing the dsane old routines just a sad case!

Anonymous's picture

Killer Elite

Aside from how bad this film was as an exercise in dramatic writing, it was also deeply questionable. This was a terrible adaptation in that the screenwriters chose, strangely, to assign moral right to a group of assassins who track down ex-soldiers and murder them whereas the book was clear in its condemnation of this group. The book was about the feathermen, a secret society acting to protect and avenge these murdered ex-servicemen. The whole premise of the film was flawed for this reason. We are expected to believe that Statham’s character is still a good man despite these murders and to route for him. A pitiful offering is made to redeem his character in the form of De Niro as hostage but surely on old man is not worth the lives of four other innocents? certainly not for a man who carries the moral right as we are expected to believe Statham does. Very absurd, very strange, very ill conceived.

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