The world is in chaos … It is 1980.
Those are the first few words that start off Gary McKendry’s Killer Elite. Marketed to be based on actual events (from Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ The Feather Men), the film takes us on a wild, adventurous journey across Europe and the Middle East in a little over 2 hours with main character Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) – who left the “killing spree” business a year prior to his best friend Hunter (Robert De Niro) being captured and held captive by a wealthy and powerful sheik who wants to avenge the death of his three late sons by killing the [supposed] SAS officers responsible [thus the reason Danny finds himself back in the business – to free Hunter]. Danny partners up with longtime friends Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young) to fulfill this task. Eventually, after much beatings, verbal cockiness, and pretty killer moments, the deed is done.
Yes, you guessed it right: this action-packed film is as cliche as it sounds. However, Killer Elite isn’t as “god awful” and as bad as “big shot” critics draw it out to be. As a matter of fact, the film leaves a pretty decent impression by the end of the movie and may get you hoping for a possible sequel.
What sets this cliche action film apart from most in this genre is its focus on character build – specifically with Danny. The majority of action films rely on ridiculously mindless, over-the-top, unnecessary, explosive violence and fighting sequences. Of course, McKendry’s work relies on the cliche as well, but he not only balances the action sequences out with his main character’s public persona and private life (where we learn our killer actually does have personality … and even a heart) but also showcases the fighting scenes at the right times and when necessary, which is why the film plays out pretty well. Every action sequence will definitely leave you in suspense and at the tip of your chair. Had this film been “in your face” with nothing but mindless shooting and killing, the point (beyond the entire movie) would have been lost, and it would’ve just been another mediocre piece of trash of a film that wouldn’t have been worth anyone watching. Killer Elite is one of those work of arts that not only tell the story of actual true events (as claimed by Fiennes) but also can be seen as a look at the world’s current economic and social instability and crisis.
What doesn’t work for the film is the setting itself (the year it’s meant to take place). Although it is based on Fiennes’ The Feather Men (set in 1980), the setting, look and feel felt like it was in the 2000s. Perhaps the only significant reference to the early 80s were the vintage Mercedes Benz and BMWs roaming around and Purcell’s retro hairstyle, but other than that, the movie felt like it was meant to be in modern day. From the hair and costumes to the entire mise en scene, the 1980s setting was done poorly and could have been so much better than it appeared. Also, what if the film had more of a grainy look rather than high definition? Imagine how effective and possibly award winning it could be. Had the crew put a lot more focus on costume and setting, this film could have been so much more than it already is.
Killer Elite isn’t as bad as what the critics make it up to be, but it also isn’t meant to be astounding and award winning either. My best advice to you, should you choose to invest your hard-earned wages on tickets for this film, is to go into it with no expectations. The film is meant to be adventurous, fun, and a great escape from reality. That is all.
This film runs 1 hour and 40 minutes and is Rated R.