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Killer Elite (2011)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Extremely Expendables"
2 stars

Over the last decade or so, Jason Statham has proven himself to be one of the more reliable of the newer breed of action movie stars and even when his films haven't always been up to snuff, his mixture of toughness, humor and sheer charisma has helped to make them more watchable than they might have been in the hands of an ordinary lunk. At the same time, Clive Owen has also established himself as one of the better leading men working today and someone who can be both convincing as a man of words and of action. And while Robert De Niro's luster has certainly been tarnished in the last few years thanks to seemingly unending series of shameless paycheck gigs in the hackiest projects imaginable, his past work was so strong and so memorable that even the most cynical viewers are willing to see what he is up to in the hopes that he has shaken off the torpor and recommitted himself to his craft as he did last year with his strong performance in the shamefully little-seen "Stone." Therefore, one might logically assume that a project featuring the trio must contain some distinct feature or concept that would set it apart from all the other scripts and make it something worth working on. And yet, the only remotely surprising thing about the new thriller "Killer Elite" is just how resoundingly unsurprising the entire enterprise is and as it plods on and on, the only question most viewers will have on their minds is why the likes of Statham, Owen and De Niro would all willingly sign on to a script that, by all accounts, appears to be the kind of thing that one might find at the bottom of Dolph Lundgren's reject pile.

Opening in 1980, the story begins in Mexico as veteran mercenaries Danny (Statham) and Hunter (De Niro) are hired to do an execution that goes hideously wrong when the target's young daughter turns up unexpectedly on the scene. As a result, Danny decides to give up the business for good and retire to the Australian bush to work both his remote farm and comely neighbor Anne (Yvonne Strahovski). A year later, Danny receives news that Hunter has been kidnapped by a ruthless Omani sheik who wants Danny to perform some work for him in exchange for Hunter's life. The targets are members of England's Special Air Service who were responsible for the deaths of the sheik's sons while doing covert and illegal work designed to prevent the spread of communism in the Middle East. With two trusted associates (Dominic Purcell and Aden Young), Danny goes off in pursuit of his targets in order to get them to confess to their crimes on camera before killing them in ways that look like accidents. While he is doing that, a secret society of former SAS soldiers, now high-ranking bankers and businessmen intent on keeping their secrets, sends Spike (Clive Owen), another former soldier who hasn't quite adjusted to the mundane aspects of civilian life, out to find out who is targeting their comrades and to bring them down. Thus begins an international game of cat-and-mouse in which nothing is as it seems.

Discerning readers will no doubt frown upon the preceding sentence for consisting of nothing but cliches but doing that seems fairly appropriate since the screenplay for "Killer Elite" itself is filled to bursting with them--so many, in fact, that it almost feels at times like an anthology of such things than an actual story. Despite the fact it is based on a book by Ranulph Fiennes that was said to be inspired by real-life shady business involving British intelligence, there is not a single moment in Matt Sherring's screenplay that feels even remotely like it was born out of actual human experience. Every character, every plot development. . .hell, practically every bit of dialogue is so creakily familiar that audiences members could practically cue the actors if they somehow forgot one of their lines. Making his feature debut, director Gary McKendry similarly fails to bring much life to the proceedings. The story drags along in such a listless manner that the film, which clocks in at only 105 minutes, seems twice as long. The action scenes, save for a reasonably exciting centerpiece sequence between Danny and Spike that starts off as a car chase and ends as a fistfight, are indifferently staged bits that are too dull to generate any real excitement and often too silly (especially when Danny somersaults out of a window into the street below despite still being tied to a chair) to be taken seriously. As for the more dramatic moments, they ring hollow throughout and the romance between Danny and his neighbor seems especially perfunctory. Even the notion that all of this nonsense is somehow based on real-life incidents fails to give the material any real snap. The result is a film that is so dull and predictable that whenever there was a scene featuring one of the characters flying from one far-flung location to another, I found myself looking intently to see what the in-flight movie might be in the hopes that it might be more interesting than the one I was watching.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of "Killer Elite" (which, I should probably mention, as absolutely nothing to do with the 1975 Sam Peckinpah film of the same name) is the fact that it somehow managed to rope in people as talented as Statham, Owen and De Niro and then fails to give them anything of interest to do or even enough scenes allowing them to play off of each other. As a result, the three essentially sleepwalk through their roles as they go through all the standard action film motions while only demonstrating tiny slivers of their considerable personalities. Considering just how bland and generic the film is--outside of the cast, there is precious little to separate it from the average direct-to-video programmer--I suspect that a better and more interesting movie could have been made following the presumably tricky negotiations that lured them into singing on to the project in the first place. While it contains enough punches, explosions and gunfire to vaguely satisfy the least discriminating genre fans in the way that a sandwich from Arby's will vaguely satisfy someone who is dying of hunger, "Killer Elite" such a cliche-filled drag that its only perceptible value is that of the basis of a potential drinking game in which players are required to do a shot each time one is deployed. Then again, the alcohol is hardly necessary because the film is enough to put most viewers into a stupor all by itself.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22576&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/22/11 23:11:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/28/12 Monday Morning Just another brainless, too-long action flick. DeNiro phones it in. 2 stars
1/15/12 action movie fan exciting thriller-good stunts good story but a bit confusing 4 stars
12/27/11 SREEKIRAN MURALIDHARAN nice review . deserves only that much 2 stars
10/19/11 KingNeutron Not too memorable, but hey it does have Statham in it at least 3 stars
9/27/11 mr.mike Worth seeing for Deniro , the best he's been in years. 4 stars
9/25/11 KingNeutron I liked it - good popcorn movie (but I went for the nachos this time around ;-) 4 stars
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  23-Sep-2011 (R)
  DVD: 10-Jan-2012


  DVD: 10-Jan-2012

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