Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Killer Elite (2011)
If you’ve seen the trailers and ads for “Killer Elite” then you pretty much know exactly what kind of movie you are going to get. The marketing has featured Jason Statham and Clive Owen running around, fighting and shooting people, and this is practically the movie in a nutshell. If this is all you’re looking for, then chances are you’ll have a good time, but for those hoping for a little more from your action films, then you’ll probably find it lacking in a few key areas.
As the film opens, Danny (Jason Statham) and Hunter (Robert De Niro) are carrying out a hit in Mexico. After it is complete, Danny is surprised to find a child in the car, which causes him to want to get out of the killing business. However, not long after he does, Hunter is captured by a sheik who hired him to do a job, which he never completed. This brings Danny back into his former occupation.
The sheik gives Danny the opportunity to complete the job in exchange for Hunter’s release. The job involves killing the men who were responsible for killing three out of four of the sheik’s sons. The catch however is that these killings must be made to look like accidents. On top of this, the men he is supposed to kill are SAS (Special Air Service), a special squad of elite British soldiers. Danny is given the information on the first target, and from there, he and his team set out to complete the mission. However, on their trail is Spike (Clive Owen), a member of a secret group whose purpose is to protect the members of the SAS.
Starting off with the areas where it needed work, the film has a couple of subplots that never really lead anywhere. The first of these involves Danny’s girlfriend, Anne (Yvonne Strahovski), who was supposedly an old friend of his from childhood. After Danny retires, he goes off and starts to live with her, but her part in the story is never developed. Her only purpose in being around was to be used as a character motivation for later on in the film.
The second undeveloped subplot involves the secret group that Spike is a part of known as The Feather Men. Their only purpose in being around was apparently to send Spike where he needed to go and then to disagree with him when he finds out the truth about the murders. This in particular could have made for a very interesting subplot had the writer, first-time screenwriter Matt Sherring, bothered to develop it. The third act does begin to have a sort of tacked-on feeling, especially when it feels like things should be wrapping up, and it certainly doesn’t help that some last minute, silly plot additions are thrown in there when a random character reveals the “big picture.”
Statham plays his usual stone-cold self, which, as usual, is not a particularly good performance, but it gets the job done when it comes to films like this. Owen isn’t given a whole lot to do other than chase Statham around and try to kill him, but he does what he can with it. Then there’s De Niro. He really needs to stop doing this to himself, signing on for small, thankless roles that don’t allow him to show what a talented actor he is. If I had to guess at this point, based on his choices of recent roles, I would say he’s given up and is happy enough with his amazing career behind him and two Oscars sitting on his shelf.
It’s not all a waste though. There are a few well-done action sequences that are somewhat exciting. During one of the hits in the middle of the film, Danny and his team rig a truck that they can control by remote in order to help dispatch one of their targets. Another sequence near the end of the film, there is a thrilling chase sequence as Danny tries to escape from what is supposed to be the final target. This type of film could certainly use more sequences like this.
With its semi-interesting plot and a small handful of engaging action sequences, “Killer Elite” came close to earning a recommendation, but because of the problems with the script and a bit of a drawn-out storyline, it didn’t quite get there. It’s not a terrible film, and again, if you’re into most action films, you might enjoy it anyway, but sadly, it just didn’t deliver enough of the action that the marketing had promised, making it a mostly-forgettable experience. 2.5/4 stars.