KILLER ELITE Review

There is always an element of grunge to a Jason Statham film. He is easily the top billed action star of the moment and though he seems to continuously pick roles that are a mirror image of his prior ones it is hard to deny the charisma of the guy. As I said in my review of "The Mechanic", Statham's January release that is very much along the same lines as this, is the fact we can count on the chrome domed actioner to deliver the thrills. What is surprising about "Killer Elite" though is the fact it allows that action to take a back seat to the importance of characters (even if most are rather dismissible archetypes) and story. The plot of the film is "based on a true story" and allows for the film to be set in the 80's which could have easily been updated to modern day, but lucky for us this time tainted element is critical to the essential plot of the film and also adds a visual stamp to the movie that allows the film to feel like an old school guy's flick that doesn't dispute the fact that it is what it is and doesn't care if you like it or not. Rookie director Gary McKendry keeps things moving quick enough we don't notice too many of the unnecessary side stories and the presence of Clive Owen and what is essentially an extended cameo by Robert DeNiro combine with Statham to deliver a solid action flick if not a completely standard one.
Danny (Statham) must rescue Hunter (DeNiro)
after coming out of retirement.
The slightly convoluted storyline revolves around Statham's Danny who, when we are introduced to him, is one of the most elite special ops agents who decides he has had enough of a life filled with death when on assignment with his long time mentor Hunter (DeNiro). A year later when Hunter turns up as being captured Danny is forced back into action with the task of killing three assassins that are responsible for the deaths of a dying leaders three sons. From the beginning we know something isn't right, thus enters the somewhat funny named Spike (Clive Owen) a man who is essentially the attack dog for a secret society within Britian. The story has its moments of promise that peak at what might have been more than just a pure shoot em up and leave with the money story, but in the end, that's what it is. "Killer Elite" positions the audience in a way that we are rooting for Statham's character, but we are never sure if he is in fact doing the right thing. As for Owen's character, he seemed extremely underdeveloped, almost to the point I wondered what about him attracted the actor to the role. We aren't given clear direction as to who is the good guy and who's on the wrong team until about ten minutes or so remain in the movie and at that point it honestly doesn't matter. We are just there to see how awesome Statham is because he can be strapped to a chair and still kick your ass.

Danny and Spike (Owen) duke it out in "Killer Elite".
"Killer Elite" does bring up some good questions though. Mostly, they have to do with how long Statham can go on making these types of movies before they really start to blur together. He has shown hints of good intuition before and has actually attempted branching out, but as of late he has stayed closer to his safe zone than ever. As of right now, looking at his IMDB page he has one film in the can where he again plays an elite agent who has to rescue a 12 year-old girl, he has another that is filming where he plays a thief that lives by the Robin Hood code and then he has "Expendables 2" in pre-production and yet another slated for next year were he plays an SAS agent who is caught between the Russian mafia and western agents who are trying to get their hands on a computer program. He had "Blitz" go straight to rental shelves a few weeks ago and has "13", a thriller that seems to have the most potential out of all of these but has been floating around since last year, and is scheduled for a DVD release in the states later this year. Getting to the point though, besides "Expendables 2" what about these is going to stand out? I have real concern because I genuinely enjoy Statham as an actor. I liked the "Transporter" series for their attention to detail and the two "Crank" films for their recognition and execution of the absurd. But when is Statham going to get down to business and offer up something that is the caliber of say, "The Bank Job"? He can do it, he has proved himself, but now he simply needs to try.

Jason Statham gets his jump on.
Getting back on track, and what that previous paragraph boils down to is the fact that if you enjoy a good action film, one that does indeed offer as much story and effort towards realizing an emotional connection; then "Killer Elite" is actually one of the better choices you will have. It is not a complete wall to wall action flick, but it provides them in good enough stride that we are both intrigued while applauding at the spectacle. I hate to really seem as if I am coming down on this movie in particular because in all honesty it could have been made with much less care and returned just as much money. There is real effort here and as a critical viewer I can see that, but trying doesn't always guarantee success and sadly, that is the case here. It's good, it is satisfactory, but while it doesn't do anything to take away from any of these actors cemented roles in pop culture it also doesn't do anything to push them further. The conclusion of the movie actually begs the question of a sequel and a small part of me hopes that there is one. There is always the possibility this could gain a big following on DVD and warrant enough interest that a sequel will be possible . If so, I hope Statham comes in ready and willing and that director McKendry will have then found his footing well enough that he will indeed be able to guide that film to the standard at which "Killer Elite" could have also reached.