Rated R, 100 min. Directed by Gary McKendry. Starring Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski, Dominic Purcell.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 30, 2011
The opening text crawl announces "the world is in chaos," pointing to economic and oil crises. Yup, that sounds familiar. And then, the "gotcha" reveal: The year is 1980. Alas, that's the last time Killer Elite will remotely ruffle expectations, and there's still 99 minutes to go.
Frequent action hero Jason Statham – who is just bald enough to pass for an "everyman," at least in Hollywood-speak – plays a retired contract killer named Danny who is pulled back into the game when his former partner (a rumply De Niro) is kidnapped. The plot, based on a nonfiction book by Ranulph Fiennes, teases some political intrigue when Danny is forced into a cat-and-mouse game that begins in the Arab state of Oman and leads to an ex-British special-forces operative (played by Owen with a dirty little mustache). Just a tease, it turns out: There's nothing here for the viewer to do, no kinks to work out, no double-crossings to anticipate, not even a half-hearted flail at figuring out how Danny ticks. Lacking a premise with the trashy-fun lure of Statham's Crank or the knotty narrative pleasures of the Bourne series (which Killer Elite rather desperately wants to be), the overlong, perfunctory Killer Elite is simply a series of (reasonably well-choreographed) assassination sequences. Still, that shot of Statham tied to a chair and launching through a second-story window, which the trailer wisely hyped? Solid gold.