Somewhere within the first thirty minutes of Killer Elite, long after it has revealed its entire premise and devolved into a confusing mess of schizophrenic scene cuts, it becomes apparent that this movie is way too long. While its running time of just under two hours may endeavor to suggest that the movie is of average length, its complete lack of anywhere to go with its storytelling loudly declares otherwise.
Robert De Niro does shoot a guy with a pistol from really far away, though. It looks cool. So there’s something.
Killer Elite’s plot, which the film proudly proclaims is based on a true story, tells of the assassinations of three British SAS members accused of carrying out covert killings of an oil shiek’s sons. Yeah, there’s some kidnapping of Robert De Niro involved, but what the film really wants you to focus on is that Jason Statham wants to stop killing but is forced back into it. How sad. He’s even got a lovely girl back home (Yvonne Strahovski of Chuck, who is very lovely indeed) and often thinks of a child in the backseat of a car. Makes sense, right?
Well, all of that is contained within about the first fifteen minutes of the film, and from there it does its very best to throw scenes at you without a whole lot of relation to one another. Would that I could tell you the importance of any given scene leading up to the aforementioned assassinations. My best summary is this: Jason Statham goes out to kill people, hangs out with Dominic Purcell, runs away from and/or beats up on Clive Owen, and talks to people. None of it is very exciting.
Sadly, even the exciting parts, such as a car chase between Statham and Owen and a couple of fist fights between, well, Statham and Owen, are weak as hell. The car chase boils down to “One car drives here sort of fast while other car drives behind it sort of fast and occasionally bumps into something by accident,” while the more pugilistic scenes are decently choreographed but horridly shot. At one point Clive Owen is stabbed somewhere in the face with a needle, though the camera work does a horrible job of revealing where. I had personally been hoping for the eye and will consider it so until evidence to the contrary is presented.
If you’ve ever felt that a romantic subplot in a movie has been a bit half-baked, you’re not even prepared for what Killer Elite has in store for you. Essentially, Strahovski (who is lovely) hangs out on the farm and unloads bales of hay from the back of a truck while Statham goes off and kills people. They act affectionately toward one another. However, one day on the telephone Strahovski gets sad because she doesn’t know what Statham does. But next time she sees him she decides she doesn’t care and she’s happy again. That is all you get. To Strahovski’s credit, she’s one of the more enjoyable things to watch in the film (not only because she’s lovely), but maybe the filmmakers should have given her a character to play.
Believe it or not, once all of the hay bales have been unloaded and the leisurely driving is taken care of, the film gathers a modicum of momentum near its conclusion. Stuff happens that wasn’t already revealed in the first fifteen minutes, and while many of these things involve some remarkably unsatisfying plot twisting, the film does become entertaining. Jason Statham fights while tied to a chair and jumps off roofs, getting back to his roots as the guy who fights while tied to a chair and jumps off roofs. Even De Niro gets in on the action after spending most of the film moping about and picking crumbs out of his beard.
Plenty of action films have bad or nonsensical stories and get by just fine, but this one goes the extra mile by being relentless in its pursuit of lifelessness. It’s quite a difficult film to recommend for any reason, as Statham fans will be better served by watching literally any of his other action flicks, and anyone intrigued by the premise will be disappointed by its execution.
Matthew Razak: 45 – Terrible: A convoluted plot that makes no sense is the least of Killer Elite‘s problems. When your action film starring three of the most badass badasses on screen sucks at making those badasses look badass then you’ve got major issues. I can forgive a far too long running time and a story that jumps everywhere and yet nowhere as long as its infused with action, action and more action. However, Killer Elite actually thinks its telling and interesting story, but even if it is it’s horribly mishandled and the action set pieces are few and far between. When they do occur they’re over edited car chases or fists fights that are far too dark to enjoy. A better director could have really made something out of this film most likely, but Gary McKendry ruins it. I’m always a fan of more Yvonne Strahovski in my life, but her useless character in the film should have been the first thing to go when they were cutting this convoluted mess down to a reasonable running time.