Killer Elite
dir Gary McKendry
scr Gary McKendry, Matt Sherring
prd Michael Boughen, Steve Chasman, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Tony Winley
with Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Yvonne Strahovski, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Michael Dorman, Firass Dirani, Lachy Hulme, Grant Bowler
release US/UK 23.Sep.11
11/UK 1h45
Killer Elite
Fighting back: Statham and DeNiro

owen mendelsohn akinnuoye-agbaje
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Killer Elite Testosterone oozes from every pore of this 1980s-set thriller. It's based on Rannulph Fiennes' book The Feather Men, which claims to recount true events but is frankly very hard to believe. Fortunately, the high-octane cast helps make the false bravado rather entertaining.

Danny (Statham) thinks he's left his black-ops life behind for a quiet farm in the Outback with lusty neighbour Anne (Strahovski), but he's forced back to work when his colleague Hunter (De Niro) is kidnapped. To free him, Danny must kill three ex-SAS agents, which raises the suspicion of a mythical committee of former operatives who protect their own. They send Spike (Owen) to stop Danny and his cohorts (Purcell and Young), but clearly there's an even deeper operation underway, and everyone's heading for trouble.

The layers of secret agencies are rather enjoyably nutty, as we continually meet unnamed figures lurking in darkened rooms from Oman to Australia to Paris to London, where the majority of the action takes place. Shady spies and shifty handlers abound, as everyone trusts those around them to their peril. So in a way, the varying acting styles of Statham (growling-scowling), Owen (furrowed-determined) and De Niro (casually unflappable) mesh nicely as variations on the theme.

They're also three extremely watchable actors, and filmmaker McKendry uses their strengthsto keep things very lively, as Statham's blunt force and Owen's impatient braininess keep them neck-and-neck, while De Niro quietly owns his scenes. So its a pity that there's little more to the characters than this, and that each scene turns into just another excuse for men to yell at each other, throw punches, shoot guns or crash cars.

This shallow approach makes the plot look ridiculous, especially since it's so clear who we should root for, even if almost everyone is actually a good guy. Meanwhile, references to Britain's messy past in the Middle East become mere plot fodder. So when the story comes to a happy end, there's actually another half-hour to come: more climactic brawls followed by more false endings. Indeed, as someone notes along the way, war isn't over until both sides stop fighting. But movies fizzle out once the thrill is gone.

cert 15 themes language, violence 20.Sep..11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall