Killer Elite

I’m surprised I didn’t post about this last fall when it first came out. I watched it in a movie theater, and then again recently on DVD. It is far better than one might expect from the trailer, which appears to suggest the movie is just another standard action flick about competing assassins, with De Niro and Clive Owen tagging along with Jason Statham.

In fact, the movie is based (loosely, I’m sure) on real events in the 1970s, as described in a book by Ranulph Fiennes. British SAS troops engage in atrocities in a dirty war in Oman. A local sheikh, who loses three of his sons to the SAS, hires an assassin, (Statham) to get confessions out of the offending SAS before killing them. As incentive, he holds Statham’s old comrade-in-arms, played by De Niro, hostage until the job is done. Owen is ex-SAS, and works for a shadowy group of other ex-military to find and kill Statham before he can complete the job.

It is grittier and more complex than movies of this type tend to be. It recreates 1970s London, and the atmosphere of bluff, military types, very effectively. Statham plays the role exactly the way he plays all his roles (all one can say is that at least he has not adopted a Dwayne Johnson Tooth Fairy persona yet). De Niro is not embarrassing. Owen is excellent as always. The minor characters are lovingly drawn. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Bank Job in both the manner in which it rose above the genre, and its evocation of that same period in English history. Recommended.

One thought on “Killer Elite”

  1. watched this last night and yes, it’s much better than i expected. i don’t even remember it being released in theaters. it has a terrible title–that probably has something to do with the fact that no one other than chris saw it. the direction is a little plodding: there’s no real sense of tension. some of this is the script’s fault; it could have stood to be just a little bit twisty. but even what’s there could have been a little more exciting. still not a bad way to pass a late weeknight, and there’s one chase sequence towards the end that is pretty good. and owen is indeed very good, as is the guy who played dracula in blade: trinity. mr. eko has put on weight.

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