Killer Elite * * 1/2

Genre: Action Thriller

Director: Gary McKendry

Writers: Gary McKendry & Matt Schering, based on the novel The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes

Cast: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro

Running Length: 118 minutes

Synopsis: Inspired by true events, Killer Elite follows the exploits of Danny (Jason Statham), one of the world's most skilled special-ops agents. Lured out of self-imposed exile, Danny reassembles his crack team of operatives to execute a near-impossible mission of retribution – to rescue his former mentor and partner Hunter (Robert De Niro). Together they must penetrate the highly feared and respected military unit, the British Special Air Service (SAS), to take down a rogue cell of soldier assassins and their leader Spike (Clive Owen) before their actions create a global crisis.

Review: On the surface, Killer Elite seems to feature a perfect cast – tough guys Jason Statham and Clive Owen facing off each other, and with Robert De Niro to boot – but the picture is not that rosy in reality. This is a classic case of “too much of a good thing”: Killer Elite simply throws too much at the audience, with a very complex plot structure that many viewers would simply give up trying to follow eventually. Thankfully, the action in the film is very well executed, so the film somewhat balances out into an action thriller that stakes its place in the middle of the pack.

One of the biggest problems with Killer Elite is that the plot threads come thick and heavy, and much of it really makes no sense at all even if you are paying close attention. In fact, much of the movie feels disjointed and the flow from one segment to the next is usually quite jarring. This could be because the book The Feather Men, the inspiration behind the film, has been accused of factual inaccuracies and even outright untruths, and so adapting the source into a film turns into a clumsy dance around the facts. One of the worst-developed subplots is the romantic angle between Statham and his beau (Yvonne Strahovski – who is probably getting more screen time than needed because of her fame on the small screen as the femme fatale in Chuck) which is never convincing and feels particularly tacked onto the proceedings.

Although the promo for the film tries to suggest that Killer Elite features the three actors evenly, the truth is that it’s simply a Jason Statham movie, with Clive Owen and Robert De Niro as guest stars. In fact, De Niro is pretty much out of the picture throughout the whole film except the first and last reels. There’s actually nothing wrong with Killer Elite being all about Jason Statham, because like most of his movies, Killer Elite is chock full of hard-hitting action, high-adrenaline car chases and more shootouts than you can shake a stick at. It’s highly visceral and highly entertaining, provided you are in the right mindset. One does wish that with stars of such caliber like Owens and De Niro on board, something more could have been done with them than just being impressive window dressing.   

Rating: ** ½ (out of four stars)

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