Thursday, September 29, 2011

KILLER ELITE - A Statham Staple

KILLER ELITE (action thriller)
Cast: Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominic Purcell, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Grant Bowler, Michael Dorman, Ben Mendelsohn and Aden Young
Director: Gary McKendry
Screenplay by Matt Sherring, inspired by the book The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Statham and De Niro as Danny and Hunter

PREAMBLE: Whenever a movie claims to be "based on a true story", you can be sure that it is going to be so far-fetched the film-makers need to assure audiences that it truly happened. And that is how it is with Killer Elite which was inspired by Ranulph Fiennes' book titled The Feather Men published in 1991.

What really happened was that the book was so controversial that Fiennes also claimed it was 'factional' (part fact and part fiction) on the alleged involvement of Britain's SAS (Special Air Services) in Oman to halt the spread of communism in the Middle East. In this film, it is easy to determine the fictional parts.

SYNOPSIS: After a hit-job goes terribly wrong in Mexico in the 1980s, mercenary Danny (Jason Statham) informs his mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro) that he wants to call it a day - and he retires on a farm in the Australian bush with his girlfriend (Yvonne Stahovski, left). Soon after, he gets word that Hunter has been kidnapped by an Omani sheikh (Rodney Afif) who will only release him if Danny does a little contract work for him.

The ailing sheikh wants revenge, he wants Danny to wipe out a bunch of SAS commandos who killed his sons! For this, Danny has to travel to London, Paris, and wherever in pursuit of those retired soldiers. He is in turn pursued up the so-called British Feather Men led by Spike (Clive Owen) who is as dogged and ruthless as they come.

HITS & MISSES: Based on real-life or not, Killer Elite is basically a Jason Statham vehicle like Transporter and Crank. It definitely feels like one, with chases, shoot-outs and punch-ups every few minutes or so. Statham's lone tough guy demeanour does not win him any credit as a talented actor and he needs lots of support. Besides De Niro, we have Owen playing another 'loose cannon' to pit against Statham's. Indeed, the touted showdowns between Statham and Owen (above) seem to be the main attractions of the movie.

Director Gary McKendry's action sequences can be rather repetitious and tedious but I appreciate the care and details he and his crew have put in to set the Eighties time frame and Cold War facade. Acting-wise, Statham is Statham, no matter who he plays. No one in the audience would feel that he is in any danger, given his expressionless performance. However, Owen makes a memorable 'Feather Man', complete with a 'bad eye' and a perpetual snarl. De Niro has only a few scenes but he shines in all of them as a veteran hit man.

THE LOWDOWN: All in all, Killer Elite has enough action to sustain our interest but it lacks a 'purpose' or a back story to provide that wow factor.


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