Killer Elite

Killer Elite
Made in: UK, Australia
Language: English
Director: Gary McKendry
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro, Clive Owen,Dominic Purcell, Aiden Young, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Yvonne Stahovski, Firass Dirani
Year: 2011

Synopsis: The world is facing financial instability and there's an oil crisis abound. Covert operations carried out by mercenaries and governments are shaping global events.

The year is 1980.

And The Benny Hill show was still on the air.

The film is based on the controversial book, The Feathermen, written by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) and Hunter (Robert DeNiro) are two expert mercenaries. Their four person crew also includes Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young).

While completing a fiery hit job in Mexico, Danny ruthlessly kills his target. But his target, a man in a business suit, was traveling with his child. Danny spares the kid's life and takes a bullet as a result of his hesitation.

Danny realizes he doesn't want to kill any more, and returns to his native Australia where he goes to live in the countryside. He starts a relationship with Ann (Yvonne Strahovski), a childhood friend, and is determined to put his past behind him.

But he's called into action once more when he hears that Hunter, his best friend and mentor, has been taken captive in Oman. Danny is summoned there by a guy only known as the Agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). The Agent, as his title implies, is the one who had arranged jobs for Danny and his crew in the past.

Danny learns that Hunter had accepted a $6 million hit job. But instead of carrying it out, Hunter tried to simply leave with the money but was caught. The man who hired him is a dying sheik living in exile. During the Dhofar Rebellion, three of the sheik's sons were killed by the elite SAS (Special Air Services).

The SAS are a special operations team from the UK, and their official role during the rebellion was to only provide military "consulting." But off the record, they were alleged to have been involved in actual combat.

The sheik identifies the three SAS operatives responsible for the killing his sons, and charges Danny with finding them, videotaping their confessions, and then eliminating them. If he doesn't, the sheik will have Hunter killed.

Danny reluctantly agrees, and reunites with Davies and Meier. He gets the two men to agree by offering them the $6 million originally set aside for Hunter. The SAS are no joke, and are protected by a secret society called The Feathermen. Members of the Feathermen are all former SAS operatives, and according to author Ranulph Fiennes, were said to wield tremendous influence (illegally and secretly, of course).

The Feathermen get wind of Danny's job, and their top enforcer, Spike Logan (Clive Owen) starts an investigation, which quickly becomes a deadly hunt among these killer elite.

But all is not what it seems. Danny and Spike find themselves wrapped up in a convoluted plot involving secret shenanigans and state-sponsored conspiracies.

The Good: Jason Statham is his usual ass-kicking self, and once again proves that he can get himself out of a jam without the help of Jet Li. Robert DeNiro is fun to watch as usual, and it's great how he makes the effort to bring life and genuine humanity to a role he could have done in his sleep.

As an action movie, Killer Elite contains enough car chases, shootouts, fight scenes, and wild stunts to keep genre fans sufficiently entertained. The dialogue is quick and sometimes witty, and the story moves along at a quick pace.

The Bad: Killer Elite could have put a little more effort into character development, and at first it's a bit tricky to distinguish who all the players are and how they all connect. As cool as Clive Owen is, the movie doesn't do much to showcase his acting skills.

And once again, the "based on a true story" tagline is supposed to hook you. But if you do a little research, some serious artistic liberties have been taken from Fiennes' book to make everything fit into a neatly constructed action movie plot. For instance, Danny and his crew are portrayed as an ultra secretive band of mercenaries.

But in real life, the hitmen were actually part of a communist terror cell called "The Clinic," the members of which were militant Arabs. Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that casting Jason Statham and Robert DeNiro as militant Arab communists probably wouldn't have played well with filmgoing audiences ANYWHERE.

Another thing about Killer Elite that bothered me was the way in which the film comes very close to demonizing the SAS, and portraying them as being complicit in some sort of global conspiracy.

And seeing how the plot was about trying to assassinate former SAS operatives (guys who have actually done a lot of GOOD in the world saving innocent lives), I found it really hard to root for the main characters.

And finally, there are no references to Benny Hill. Boo!

Who would like this movie: Simply as an action movie, Killer Elite is well made and entertaining even if most of what goes on is completely implausible.

The film greatly simplifies (and arguably distorts) the source material it was taken from, so I wouldn't take the "based on a true story" part very seriously at all. Watch it just because it's fast paced and fun, but don't expect it give you any genuine insight on history or geopolitical events.

(2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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