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Killer Elite - Review

Killer Elite

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE presence of Robert De Niro and Clive Owen in a Jason Statham movie suggests a higher calibre of thriller, especially given the controversial source material.

But stripped down to its core, Killer Elite is just another Statham action vehicle and one that labours under the mis-apprehension that it’s offering something more.

Made by some of the same people behind his far superior The Bank Job, the film is loosely based on the reportedly true memoirs of Ranulph Fiennes, named The Feather Men, which exposed the exploits of SAS men in Oman for several years during the ‘80s.

Statham plays Danny, an ex special ops agent who has lost his appetite for killing, as he comes out of retirement to save the life of an ex-colleague and friend, Hunter (De Niro), who has been taken hostage by a dying Arab sheikh.

But in order to get Hunter back Danny must kill the three SAS soldiers who were responsible for murdering three of the sheikh’s sons – with the added complication of both extracting taped confessions from them and making the deaths look accidental.

Enlisting former colleagues Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young) to help him, Danny sets about achieving the impossible, while another former SAS man, Spike (Clive Owen) attempts to stop him on behalf of the shadowy government ‘feather men’ of the novel’s title.

Like The Bank Job, Killer Elite should have made for a solid old fashioned thriller that combined some thrilling action set pieces with an absorbing look at a murky chapter in British political history as well as the tormented emotions of the men at the centre of the killing.

Instead, debut director Gary McKendry opts for an emphasis on the set pieces and quickly loses our interest.

Admittedly, some of the set pieces are impressively staged (such as an opening assassination and a couple of the confrontations between Statham and Owen) but some feel redundant and several serve to drag proceedings out to unnecessarily long lengths (almost two hours).

But with a story that shows little ingenuity in terms of how it’s being told and characters that are barely worth caring about, the film struggles to invest viewers emotionally and becomes a formulaic countdown to getting the job done before a final ‘twist’ adds even more padding to proceedings.

To be fair, Statham is in his element amid the chaos, scowling his way through each mission while equally unnecessary flashbacks offer insights into his sensitive side with a distant Australian beauty (Chuck’s Yvonne Stahovski).

But Owen and De Niro feel wasted, even though they do enough with limited screen time to suggest their characters warrant further investigation. De Niro, in particular, hints at a complexity largely absent from Statham’s central ‘hero’.

McKendry’s use of ‘80s period detail and the globe-trotting nature of the story also provide missed opportunities for sprucing things up as many of the incidental details feel like distractions from the set pieces, which pretty much all lead back to the same formula of having Statham do a job and then narrowly evade Owen.

Far from offering anything approaching elite, this formulaic cat-and-mouse thriller feels decidedly average and all the more disappointing given some of the people involved.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: September 23, 2011