Killer Elite is a film that sounds like your usual Jason Statham type action flick just by the title and tagline (May the Best Man Live) alone; however, it’s actually a lot deeper than most of his past works and is also based on a true story.
Of course, when a movie says it’s “based on a true story,” that doesn’t mean that everything that takes place in the film is true; it simply means that a portion of the film has a resemblance to something that actually happened. For example, the book Jaws by Peter Benchley was based off the true events of a great white shark being captured off the coast of Long Island back in the early 1960s. The writer of the book took that idea to the next level by creating a man-eating shark that terrorized a small community which was eventually made into the blockbuster film, however both were technically “based on a true story.”
Though by reading the description of “The Feather Men,” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes (the book in which Killer Elite is based) it’s easy to see that scriptwriter Matt Sherring kept close to the story in which Fiennes was telling, though it’s up to the reader or viewer to figure out what they believe is fact and what may have been added to up the dramatic tension. That said, what we are left with is a surprisingly intense espionage film that will bring viewers to the edge of their seat more than once throughout its well-paced two-hour runtime.
The film stars Statham as Danny, a highly skilled former special-ops agent who left the business after a traumatic experience on a mission changed his perspective on killing. After word gets back to him that his former partner and mentor, Hunter (Robert De Niro), has been captured, Danny realizes that he’s the only one that can do the job that will get his friend released. That mission: to kill three former British Special Air Service (SAS) assassins who murdered the sons of the man holding Hunter hostage.
Whether true or not, the idea sounds perfect for a movie and Gary McKendry does a great job bringing it to life in his feature film directorial debut. The action is tight and well paced, never stealing center stage to the story, but escalating it in full force when it’s time. The hand to hand fight scenes are well choreographed and flow smoothly with the sharp edits that help make the battles seem as real as they can.
Statham does some great work here and fans of his will know what to expect. While this isn’t Transporter type action, there’s a gritty realism to it that really brings the characters to the frontline. Statham does what he does best and once again proves that he’s one of the top action stars of the past decade. Clive Owen, who plays Spike, a former SAS soldier and Danny’s nemesis, does a great job as well. He convincingly plays a man who has been all but discarded by his country, but believes he’s still fighting the good fight for the “Feather Men”, a secret society of long retired former agents who traded in their uniforms for pinstripes and manipulate things from behind closed doors.
De Niro, while playing a minor role, is perfect for the part of Hunter. The chemistry between him and Statham during their scenes together gives off the mentor/friend vibe that was needed to make the idea of Danny basically going on a suicide mission for him believable. Also of note on the acting front is Dominic Purcell, who plays Davies, one of Danny’s comrades in arms. He’s a fun character that helps bring some balance and life to Danny’s small elite of group and it’s easy to see that Purcell had fun playing him.
If there’s a weak part to the film it comes from the script, which may sound odd considering the overall story is intriguing. While some things, such as Danny’s reflections upon his home life while he’s traveling, are done extremely well and add character depth; certain scenes and pieces of dialogue are incredibly bad for the simple reason that nobody would say the types of things these people are saying in the situation they’re in. The most noticeable point that this takes place is when we’re first introduced to the Feather Men and one of the group members goes on to explain exactly who the group is, what they’ve done in the past and why they now choose to not get their own hands dirty. It’s so blatantly done for the viewer that it actually hurts the film, as most are likely quick enough to understand who it is these people are without one of them explaining it aloud to the rest of the group as if they don’t know who they are.
Be that as it may, Killer Elite is still a solid espionage thriller that will give action junkies their fill, while giving those who look for a little bit more character in their testosterone-laced cinema just that.
The audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and sounds great. There’s a lot of talking going on throughout and it balances quite well with the loud, explosive action without problem. The video looks sharp and crisp, with no distracting features that take away from the movie on any level visually.
The extras are fairly skimpy, though that’s not entirely surprising given that the film didn’t do huge business at the box office. Still, it would have been nice to get some behind-the-scenes footage to see how certain things came together, or a commentary by McKendry given that this was his first shot at directing in the big leagues. What we end up with are the following:
Interviews – There are roughly 40 minutes of interviews with cast and crew here. While you get a bit of a look into the minds of those that worked on the film, it’s thrown together in a way so that the questions are left out and we just fade in and fade out of particular answers given by the person being interviewed at the time. Though given the lack of anything else, those that are interested can at least give it a quick look.
Deleted Scenes – There are roughly nine minutes of deleted scenes, all of which would have easily broken up the nice pacing of a film that was definitely at the brink of how long it could be without beginning to feel tedious.
While it does have its flaws, Killer Elite is a fun espionage thriller that deserves a viewing at home. The film is well put together and Statham delivers the action as fans of his have come to expect. Recommended.
Open Road Films presents Killer Elite. Directed by: Gary McKendry. Written by: Matt Sherring. Based off the novel “The Feather Men” by: Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell, Yvonne Strahovski. Running time: 116 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: Januray 10, 2012 Available at Amazon.com.