Killer Elite is an interesting action flick which can easily address several of the classics in the genre without being accused of copycating them. The movie is a standalone authentic protagonist-antagonist battle, with interesting enough twist and turns and characters which can make you care about what happens to them before the final credits.
The plot is around Oman petrol sheiks and British SAS dirty operations, but this is not the main reason why the film is happening at all, these are only devices to develop better the 2 main characters.
The protagonist is Jason Statham,who once again carries out a steady performance as in the rest of his action movies. A professional hitman who is tired and wants to get out of the business. His involvement in this movie is actually a little wink to the remake of “The Mechanic” where he performed a similar role not so long ago. It is a bit funny that the creators of “Killer Elite” took it even further by involving a rookie who messes up one of the assignments. The assignment of killing criminals and making it look like accidents is the first reference to a genre classic such as The Mechanic (1972). In “Killer Elite” though the killer of killers is not one man, but there are three of them in a rescue mission for the 4th of the team.
Apart from having De Niro on board somehow the film reminds me of Heath, especially with the prolonged game of cat and mouse between Clive Owen (the antagonist) and Statham. This time the duel is not so classy and intellectual as in the case of DeNiro vs Pacino, but has other values. The scenes where the characters get physical with each other are skilfully choreographed and shot, also carrying a sense of a real fight. Even with the fast editing and some shakes of the camera it is very clear who is hitting whom and which body parts are involved and you can even somehow catch the logic of blows and blocks they exchange. My personal favorite from this scene is the part with the scissors at 01:04 in the video below.
You have of course the obligatory for the genre car chases – all of it with legends of the British car industry, The movie is set in the 80s, so all the vehicles, the clothes, sun glasses and hair styles and even the camera in one of episodes are from that period – a job well done by the scenography crew, although a list of anachronisms can be found on imdb dedicated page for the moviegoers who like to go into the details.
There is an espionage subplot, so the movie cannot do without a roof chase between the two rivals. Here again we learn that Statham’s character has become too soft for the job, and he pays for it all the time. During the movie the viewer is lead to think that Statham is still the alpha dog, but actually none of the killings are executed directly by him and this repeating motive works very subtle and therefore quite efficient for the main theme of the movie.
The bad boy needs a nice lady, so in the role enters Yvone Strahovski, a young Australian actress. I don’t know if they picked her up for the roles because they needed a genuine aussie accent, but she works quite fine for her part in the movie.
I was pleasantly surprised by Dominic Purcell performance, who after the successful Prison break was rather disappointing in Blade (Trinity), but here blends pretty well with the British crew.
Some moral messages about war, politics, business and whether killers should be punished are touched, but are not in the center of the movie. It is more about choices in life and men who remain themselves till the end.
Director is Gary McKendry and this is his first big entry in feature film, so I will watch out for his next movies.
The script is based on a real story events, described in the book of Ranulph Fiennes, who is a co-writer.
If you have watched the movie, you can vote which of them is cooler in his role – Jason Statham or Clive Owen.