Filled with car chases, explosions, and more fighting than a UFC match, “Killer Elite” (opening this Friday nationwide) provides Jason Statham and action movie fans with everything they would expect. Does it have the best writing? No. Is the “final showdown” as entertaining as it should be? No. Is it a fun way to spend two hours? Absolutely.
“Killer Elite”, based on a so-called nonfiction British book about a secret British society, tells the story of a team of mercenaries led by Hunter (Robert DeNiro, in a role more reminiscent of his powerhouse action performances in the late 1990s (“Heat” and “Ronin”) than his legacy-eroding turns in “Little Fockers,” “Righteous Kill” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”). Hunter mentors Danny (Jason Statham, doing what he does best) and, after “the last job” goes awry (they always do, don’t they?), Hunter is proud that Danny hangs up his arsenal and starts his life as a rural Australian homebuilder who catches the eye of a local girl from his childhood. The romance actually feels real and later scenes involving the girl don’t come across as trite as they do in other equivalent action films. Of course, this isn’t Lifetime, this is a Jason Statham movie, so Hunter gets kidnapped and Danny must work as a mercenary to earn Hunter’s release, as well as $6 million. Put simply: British soldiers murdered a wealthy sheik’s three sons and the sheik wants each of his son’s killers murdered before he dies. If the job is done, Hunter goes free and the sheik’s remaining son can return to their tribe.
“Killer Elite” is certainly as good as the best of Statham’s “The Transporter” or “Crank” series, but also comes with flaws. The first is that two hand-to-hand fighting scenes between Danny and British ex-soldier Spike (Clive Owen) lose their luster quickly due to dark lighting and a frantic editing job that makes some of the most exciting and best-choreographed attacks difficult to see. They are thrilling, but could have been directed significantly better. Also, Clive Owen’s character Spike is a weakness in the film, mainly because of poor writing. His character is not enough of a good guy (as avenging the murders of British soldiers by a rogue group seems quite respectable) or enough of a bad guy (trying to hunt down and kill Danny and his crew won’t earn him many points from viewers) to garner much attention. He seems to just be there, saying his lines when needed, punching when needed, and remembering the days when he was heir to the James Bond franchise before blond-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig took the role.
The international locales of Oman, London, and Australia add excitement to the story, even though it has been claimed that Danny moves to Australia in the film only to appease the film’s producers who are based in Australia. The film also contains a few surprises, including one unexpected death, that keep the suspense going when the writing starts to disappoint.
The sheik and his son in Oman appear no more than caricatures of Arabs, and much more could have been done to flesh out their characters, but, again, this is a Jason Statham movie. If viewers want to learn about Arab culture, they should Netflix (Quikster?) the films “Osama” or “Lawrence of Arabia”. If viewers want to watch a man tied to a chair somehow propel himself into the air and then fly backwards onto a person, smashing him, “Killer Elite” is the better bet.
The reviewer watched “Killer Elite” at a special advanced screening on Tuesday, September 20 in Washington, D.C.. The film comes out nationwide on Friday.