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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » October 27, 2011
Film review
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Killer Elite
October 27, 2011   
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Gary McKendry has made his name in the movie industry as the writer and director of Everything in This Country Must (2004), which nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. He has now made his feature-length debut, directing Killer Elite, a big-budget action thriller with an A-list cast.

In the quest for viewers, McKendry was backed by screenwriter Matt Sherring for whom Killer Elite is the first film as well. Sherring’s task was made easier by The Feather Men, a best-selling novel by Ranulph Fiennes, a British adventurer and ex-SAS (Special Air Service) officer who apparently based parts of the book on his own life. The novel from 1991 describes an intricate scheme where a Middle Eastern sheikh hires an enigmatic commando unit to assassinate several SAS officers who killed his sons. In the book, the officers receive protection from the titular, mysterious paramilitary organization. Typically for revelations coming from authors with a past like that of Fiennes, the authorities have remained tight lipped and nobody can tell to this day which facts are true and which are pure fiction.

Rather than a straight adaptation of the novel, Killer Elite only takes some basic ideas from The Feather Men. In the prologue, Danny (Jason Statham—The Bank Job, Cellular, Transporter movies) and his mentor Hunter (Robert de Niro) are on a spectacular hit job in Mexico together with their unit. Danny backs out from the business shortly afterwards, tormented by his conscience after he had to kill the target right in front of the man’s underage son.

Fast forward over a year and Danny lives an idyllic life in his home country of Australia with a girlfriend he has known since kindergarten. One day he is handed an envelope with a plane ticket to Oman and a photograph of Hunter, who has evidently been taken captive. Danny arrives in the Arab Peninsula to find out that Hunter had signed up to a contract he failed to fulfill and is now doomed unless Danny finishes the job for him. This is an extremely difficult task, as Danny’s men are tasked with assassinating three SAS men who killed the sons of a sheikh expelled from his homeland for failing to avenge the sons. Struck with terminal cancer, the sheikh now wants his fourth son to be able to triumphantly return to his homeland as an avenger. Killing the Brits is not enough, as the sheikh wants them to confess the killings on camera first and make sure their parting with this world looks like an accident.

The first three quarters of Killer Elite manage to retain the logic of a standard action movie with a generous share of cloak-and-daggery, car chases and shoot-outs. Admittedly, some of that is improbable, for example when Danny joins an SAS training unit without raising any suspicions, but the movie still makes for good viewing. But then it turns out that nothing is what it seems and from that point on, the script loses all clarity and viewers get fed a conspiracy theory that makes little to no sense. The nonsense reaches an absurd climax when Danny and Hunter get even with Spike (Clive Owen—King Arthur, Inside Man, Derailed), a one-eyed SAS veteran who constantly tries to stop Danny and Hunter in their tracks. If it weren’t for the last 15 or 20 minutes, Killer Elite could be quite a decent action movie, especially as all the protagonists, Owen in particular, go to great lengths to deliver compelling roles.
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