It’s a really odd place in Robert De Niro’s career when he’s becoming a character actor. After years of being one of Hollywood’s best leading men, with two Oscars and innumerable platitudes to show for it, De Niro is popping up in roles as a supporting actor that would seem almost beneath him 10-20 years ago. After a turn as the bad guy in Limitless, De Niro pops up once again as second fiddle to Clive Owen and Jason Statham in Killer Elite.
Based on the novel “The Feather Men,” a book originally released as a non-fiction work but whose veracity has since been taken away and fiction status given, the film follows two very dangerous men. Danny (Jason Statham) is retired from being an assassin when he’s brought back into the game by his old mentor Hunter (De Niro). Hunter’s been kidnapped by a powerful but deposed Middle Eastern sheik.
Forced into taking out some old enemies for revenge, Danny also has developed a powerful enemy in Spike (Clive Owen). Spike is the heavy hand of a cabal of businessmen called “the feather men,” a group of former British Special Ops bound together by a shared past. In what becomes a tale of two hunters, Danny must chase down and kill some very dangerous men in order to free his friend while also being pursued by the man charged with protecting them.
And what’s becoming a fairly repeatable thing for Jason Statham it winds up being a slightly better than mediocre action film. In fact it’s become a bit of a pattern for the British action star: give him a one note character with just enough redeeming qualities to make him a hero and give him something fairly generic to do.
This is a paint-by-numbers film for Statham, who really doesn’t show all that much in terms of acting abilities outside of his usual limited range. He snarls, he growls and not much more than he’s done in a handful of other films this year alone. Statham doesn’t really need to show all that much of a range for films like this; he has enough screen presence and charisma to make up for any lack of acting ability needed.
This is a film that also doesn’t demand much out of him, either, or for the matter the rest of the cast. This is a film that’s elite in the sense that it has it in the title but is a fairly pedestrian action film. There’s nothing new or exciting done with the film; it hits all the right notes and ends in the way you’d think it would. There’s nothing new or original and it’s barely fun; in fact the film’s main villain seems to be having the most fun of anyone involved.
Clive Owen seems to be having a lot of fun in what’s a role designed for maximum scenery chomping. Owen isn’t quite frothing at the mouth but he seems to be having a lot of fun as a bad guy for once, including having a ridiculously awful moustache. This isn’t anything that’ll stand out on his resume but it’s a fun performance out of him in what could’ve been a role easily mailed in from an actor who usually gets better roles.
Killer Elite won’t end up high on the Jason Statham resume of action films; in fact it probably will end up being more of a footnote than anything else.
Director: Gary McKendry Notable Cast: Clive Owen, Jason Statham, Robert De Niro Writer(s): Matt Sherring based off the novel “The Feather Men” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.