Directed by: Gary McKendry
Produced by: Michael Boughen
Screenplay by: Matt Sherring
Based on: The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes
Starring: Jason Statham
Robert De Niro
Music by: Johnny Klimek
Cinematography by: Simon Duggan
Editing by: John Gulbert
Studio(s): Ambience Entertainment
Distributed by: Open Road Films
Release date: September 23, 2011
Running time: 116 minutes
Country(s): United States
Budget: $66-$70 million
Box office revenue (as of publication): $22, 239, 000
Hey dogs (I'm being all ghetto listening to Montel Vontavious Porter's new song Holla To The World), sup? Yes, I'll stop it. Anyway, this is the first of the Jason Statham double-bill. The Stathe is a busy man, and I'll be following this with a review for Blitz, a film he released earlier in the year. Both of these films, as I saw them in September, will be included for review as film's of this month, which will in turn follow from my later review of Blitz. Keep your eyes posted, it's a new month of film, and I'm going to be busy!
Well, as mentioned, here we are with the first of The Stathe Double-Bill, Killer Elite. As expected with a title like Killer Elite, we follow Danny Bryce (Jason Statham), a hitman who after retires after killing a man in front of his son, begrudgingly takes on one last job as his friend Hunter (Robert De Niro) has been kidnapped due to failing fails his previous hit, which Danny has been employed to take or else Hunter will be executed. The hit involves taking out a number of seriously hard S.A.S. men, one of whom (Spike Logan, played by Clive Owen) investigates the situation on behalf of The Feathermen, an organisation of former S.A.S. men dedicated to protecting their own. Purportedly, this is 'based on a true story,' the basis for which made up the central ideas of Ranulph Fiennes' book The Feather Men.
To start with what is good about Killer Elite, I must highlight the three central performances. None of them are what you would necessarily say are great performances, but they are good. Jason Statham is always a strong screen presence, and is one of the very few guys who play the 'hard man' role today that you legitimately buy as a hard man character. Even Bob De Niro, who has of late been cashing it in, does a decent job as the older mentor figure, and looks pretty badass carrying a Carbine. Saying that, I would like to see De Niro try again, the last proper good role I saw him in was Righteous Kill, an underrated film I think was shat on because it wasn't Heat. Clive Owen is very good here in a refreshingly entertaining villainous role as the intimidating Spike Logan. Whenever you have a movie of this type, which frankly just goes through the motions, it becomes that much more bearable whenever you leads of this quality to anchor the film. Finally, I must praise the production designers and location scouts. Killer Elite's mise-en-scene is that of $100 million plus film, and as such it is praiseworthy when your film's shooting locations look significantly more expensive than they are.
Perhaps I gave away the general tone of the review already, it probably reflects in the language I'm using, but I found Killer Elite a very, very boring and dull film. Gary McKendry is a director who has potential, but it is clear that he is a gun for hire here. Matt Sherring's script has to be one of the most base, simplistic and unimaginative in recent memory. For starters, the film is built as essentially a Jason Statham vehicle. Then, sure enough we have a little backstory arc going on for the Stath shown in flashback that is pretty piss poor (why does he always have flashbacks on planes?). Worst of all, in case we still thought it was a nuts-and-bolts action movie, we get a socio-political conspiracy going on that climaxes with one of the worst attempts at an autobiographical/self-referential plot point regarding the text upon which the film is based in film history. Excuse the Jamesian sentence! As Bryan Alvarez would say with regards to a bad wrestling match, this script is "minus-five stars!" Then, of course, what would a film like this be without a bad imitation of the DV Paul Greengrass action-film style. All of the action scenes are shot and edited around the idea of how much can we shake this camera? I've seen J.J. Abrams do this on the Star Trek DVD, don't think I don't know you are merely having a Christian Bale-esque freakout on the camera equipment? Don't worry, it's ok, rage and destruction is therapeutic, and at least you're getting a good movie out of it. Scratch that last one, but it does seem like they let Vinnie Jones do some guest cinematography and manhandle the cameras as though Ross Kemp has claimed he's a harder man again (in-joke for the Gervais-Merchant fans) and let Heath Ledger's The Joker ran rampant in the editing suite. To top it off, we have another appearance by the omnipresent EHO (Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra), this time by way of Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil. Like the rest of the film, the score represents unoriginal uniform consistency in mediocrity. Things get loud and things band during the action sequences, and this time, instead of the usual strings those guilty of EHO, we have the solo piano playing very minimalist. I was listening to bits of the score to refresh myself and get a feel for the film, but I got bored and thought fuck it, I'm listening to the Rango soundtrack. No film score, or film, should make their audience bored: their audience should engaged with the film. Despite having a full house to myself in The Strand (which also means I have supreme authority/monopoly of opinion on this one) with no distractions, I was bored to tears by Killer Elite. It didn't help that www.britinfo.net listed the film as being twenty minutes shorter than it was, so I committed a cardinal sin and answered the phone when my mother rang me. It's that boring.
Killer Elite is a shame of a film. Despite the star power of credible leads Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, it is a really boring film. 'Boasting' one of the worst scripts in recent memory, being both a terribly shot and edited film and a nuts-and-bolts score, the overall picture that you end up getting is a bad action flick trying to be something it isn't and really failing in nearly every department possible.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 2.7/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Glad (buoyed by the thought I never have to address this film again, listening to the Rango soundtrack and about to start a movie I don't have to review)