Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Somewhere strewn across the planet earth are a string of 5’7", 160 pound, balding hopeful badass actors with razor stubble who workout a lot that are wishing that Jason Statham would come down with some kind of debilitating disease. If only temporarily. Not because they dislike Mr. Statham, but because they’d like to find gainful employment one day since he’s cornered the market on those particular set of parameters for a movie character. Today’s Statham-esque incremental translation of Chev Chelios or Frank Martin is Danny the Assassin in this remake… kind of… of ‘Killer Elite’. In this film Statham plays a balding, ass kicking badass with razor stubble who really is a good person on the inside, who kicks much ass. Think Jason Statham can pull that off? Yeah, I think he can, but I’m the gambling type.

Our film takes place in 1980, though I’m not sure why it takes place in 1980 since it doesn’t have a 1980’s ‘feel’ to it and the situations that our elite killers are dealing with probably could’ve taken place in 2011 without much issue, but it takes place in 1980 so we’re going with it. Regardless, our team of killers, which consists of the aforementioned Danny, his mentor Hunter (Robert DeNiro), Meier the munitions guy (Aden Young) and Davies the hothead (Dominic Purcell) are all in Mexico to do what they do. The job goes well, with one little hiccup, and Danny has sworn off the killing business for the rest of his days. As if.

A year later Danny is all happy and stuff, living on a farm in Australia… I think… because his new girlfriend Anne (Yvonne Strahovski) is Australian, and I believe Danny is supposed to be Australian too. Uh… okay. None of that is neither here nor there to be honest with you, just know that his beloved mentor Hunter has been kidnapped after failing to do a job, and the client for this job won’t let Hunter go until this job gets done, and only Danny and his crew can do this job. The job, setup by Danny’s smarmy murder agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), is to kill a group of the toughest, hardest, meanest British SAS agents for this sheik who believes these soldiers killed his sons, get videotaped confessions from these bad dudes, AND make the deaths look like accidents. Crazy.

Trying to stop this crack team of assassins from pulling off these murders, and doing a real poor job of it to be honest with you, is super hardcore ex-SAS agent Mr. Spike

(Clive Owen). Think of him as James Bond if Bond had a really sour disposition and some severe anger management issues. Actually, I think that is Daniel Craig’s version of Bond already. Anyway, Mr. Spike is one angry, uptight dude and Danny’s existence just makes him angrier and more uptight. So while Danny tried to leave the game, they kept pulling him back in. Hopefully Danny can finish this gig, rescue his friend, avoid Mr. Spike and go on with his peaceful life. However, no matter how hard Danny tries to leave the game, they keep pulling him back in. You don’t put a woman who looks like that, in a movie such as this, just as a simple love interest. You know that right? Explosions, shootouts, mayhem, murder and chaos shall ensue.

Directed by Gary McKendry, I enjoyed some aspects of ‘Killer Elite’, and some I wasn’t so crazy about. I think I was looking for a thriller that was a little more intelligent, had a little more cloak and dagger intrigue to it, similar to the original… which was no great film by the way… but basically what I got was more Jason Statham badassery, which we gotta admit works almost all the time. When you play a badass as often as Jason Statham plays a badass, obviously it’s something the man can do and do well, but the thing is maybe I’m getting just a little weary of seeing Jason’s baddasery shtick? Maybe a little bit? And outside of similar titles, you wonder why the production company even chose the name ‘Killer Elite’ since the two films have so little in common with each other.

Since we didn’t get the hard edged, politically charged, action thriller we were hoping for, though we could clearly tell that the effort to at least attempt to do this was there, hopefully the action in this movie, one chock full of action, will at least carry us through, and for this most part director McKendry succeeded in this. While the movie itself wasn’t overly intelligent, the action sequences and the thought processes behind these sequences were much better than a lot of the mindless stuff we’ve seen recently in similar films. And while Jason Statham held firm with the hand he was dealing as far performances go, we are pleased as punch to let you know that DeNiro, Purcell, Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Aden Young and even Clive Owen gave us some different kind of characters to chew on. Yvonne Strahovski was pretty much trapped into being regulated as the beautiful damsel in distress.

Robert DeNiro might be an old man, but he can still embody a character better than most when the mood hits him, and I didn’t doubt for minute that his character was the grizzled, tough, killer that he presented to me, plus he added a little levity to the film. Akinnouye-Agbaje shows over and over again that he refuses to be typecast, unlike some we know, and was excellent as the cowardly, double dealing broker of murder deals, but Dominic Purcell’s rawness as the rouge Davies probably delivered the most interesting and entertaining performance in this film.

‘Killer Elite’ is an interesting mix, an action film with actual tangible characters, outside of its star of course who gives us what we expect, but it’s also a movie I personally thought could’ve been a little bit more than it was, if it were to place more emphasis on the backroom dealings, and a little less on the explosive action. Still an entertaining movie either way.

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