Killer Elite, the Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro mercenary action-thriller opened up today in theaters everywhere. With a pretty decent offering at the box office this weekend, with openings for the Taylor Lautner/John Singleton mystery Abduction, Brad Pitt’s Moneyball and Killer Elite, it was rather difficult deciding which to see first. I’m sure I’ll eventually catch all three this week, but choosing Killer Elite, for me, seemed the most logical in the end, as it offers a mix of non-fiction, action, espionage and what I consider to be an excellent cast.
The film is inspired by the Ranulph Fiennes novel, “The Feather Men,” and tells the story of Danny (Statham), a recently retired mercenary who’s is drawn back into the killing club when Hunter (DeNiro), his long time friend and “coworker” is taken captive. Danny must then assist the Sheikh with a series of kills, which once complete, that will avenge the assassinations of his eldest three sons and allow his remaining son to return to power.
As the story progresses, Danny and his crew run into a worthy adversary in Spike (Owen), a retired SAS agent and member of “The Feather Men,” an underground organization of SAS agents that operates in secrecy, from the British government and even from the SAS itself.
The tale, for a true story, is filled with as much action and intrigue one typically expects in fictitiously penned screenplays. We watch Danny and his men gather intelligence on their targets, plot a course of action for each marks demise. Additionally, each hit had two caveats for each portion of the assignment to be completed successfully. The team must first get each of their targets to confess their role in the Sheikh’s son’s murders and then finish by making the murders look like routine or accidental in nature.
While the set up is short, enough was provided, at the film’s onset, to establish Danny as both, the epitome of a skilled assassin, as well as illustrate the moral compass that he tries to live his life under. The cinematography is outstanding, offering some tremendous shots, as we are treated to a variety of locales, including Paris, London, Australia, Mexico and Oman. The acting is solid, as one would expect from this trio, each offering their characters with an untold sensibility, as shown through body movement, speech patterns and body language.
While at times you’ll find a few slower paced scenes, which I feel are essential to the film’s pacing, enabling the audience to process the details and digest the action of the most recently completed scene, as well as offering brief-to detailed set-ups to the scenes that followed. The structure, in this respect, is very emblematic of that of a roller coaster, where high points (action) alternate with lower points (dialogue and details).
Being a film inspired by a true story offers the audience a sense of awe that this type of events and lifestyle actually do exist in the real world. But it also should be viewed as a warning too. This idea goes along with any event based in non-fiction though or for that matter, any time a book is adapted without the liberties often taken by the writer. We must understand that while the action can certainly be intensified, it should also be noted that, to come off as being as faithful as possible, to the original text or real-life events, that the action we come to expect in film has to be toned down a bit, if only for the purpose of deepening the link between screen and reality.
I think this is a story that many will enjoy. It has a little bit of everything in it, including a romantic thread. Killer Elite may not go down in the annals of film as one of the best all-time actions or thrillers, but it’s certainly a decent experience for moviegoers, packed with drama and adrenalin alike. Yet, when you take into account that it’s inspired by a true story, then you may just choose to push it up the rankings a bit. But as always, what one will find great another may find to be ho-hum and of course, the opposite always exists as well.