Starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro
I’ve been apologetic in the past for sub-standard action films. I’ve been giving passes to lackluster movies for far too long. I don’t know if the movies are getting worse or I’ve just been turned off by the redundant product. Either way, “Killer Elite” felt like the breaking point.
Maybe my malaise falls on the shoulder of Jason Statham. I realize that most action icons have certain limitations with their acting. No one ever accused Stallone, Van Damme or Schwarzenegger of being ranged thespians. Statham’s gritty, monotonous delivery has started to lose impact—especially in more “serious” action movies grounded in reality. In his more ridiculous action outings, like the “Transporter” films and the “Crank” movies, a subtle inexpressive style seems to work because he’s the most serious man in a crazy scenario. In a typical, run-of-the-mill spy movie, he’s kind of a bore.
“Killer Elite” is just that: a bore. It’s an emotionless, plodding mess. Statham plays Danny, a mercenary who will kill anyone for the right price but still has values. This is established at the start of the film when Danny slaughters a car full of people but seems downright shocked when a young girl is in the car. He stares at her blood-stained face and hesitates. He can’t pull the trigger. This is intended to let the audience know that even though Danny is a savage-killing machine, he still has a heart of gold.
Danny’s mentor is a grizzled old hit-man named Hunter (Robert DeNiro). The two are very close. They share a bond that can only be formed when two men spend a lot of time murdering people for money or herding cattle in Montana. Danny takes some time away from contract killing but is abruptly brought back into the cloak-and-dagger shenanigans after Hunter is kidnapped and held hostage. Danny is informed by a terminally ill Sheik that he must exact revenge on a team of killers in the British military, all of whom murdered his sons. There are conditions: Not only must he kill these crafty assassins, he must get them to confess and make their deaths appear to be accidents.
Everything about “Killer Elite” feels manufactured. There isn’t an honest or inspired moment in the entire film. I was roped into thinking this would be a high-caliber film due to the casting of legitimate actors like Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro. Let me dispel that rumor right now. Sometimes good actors do bad movies for no other reason than collecting a paycheck. “Killer Elite” might have just reset the bar for how low-talented actors are willing to sink for some cold, hard cash. Is there anything worse than watching good thespians saddled with bad material, giving the bare minimum of effort? Actually, there are probably a lot of things worse than that. War. Famine. Poverty. Anything featuring Zooey Deschanel.
Most of the time, when I review a movie like “Killer Elite,” I bag on the acting and the predictable plotting but find a way to excuse the gaping flaws because of a couple of well-choreographed action scenes. Not today. This is junk—a total waste of everyone’s time involved with the production and a total waste for anyone who had to pay 10 bucks to sit through it. I’ve seen so many average films starring Jason Statham that I’m beginning to resent his existence. And I’ve seen Robert DeNiro in so many forgettable roles over the past 10 years that I’m starting to forget what a great actor he used to be.
“Killer Elite” shouldn’t have been such a disappointment, but all the signs are there. A tired action star. Good actors slumming in a film that should be beneath them. This is a boring pile of emotionless trash.