DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: TIFF 2011 - Killer Elite

Thursday, 8 September 2011

TIFF 2011 - Killer Elite

Killer Elite (2011) dir. Gary McKendry
Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro


By Greg Klymkiw

What this lame duck action thriller is doing in a major international film festival like TIFF is beyond me. This is the sort of movie that gives one the impression that the festival is little more than a junket opportunity for bad movies that need all the help they can get or just an excuse to parade a bunch of stars into town.

Though it is inspired by a not-so-manly-titled book called "The Feather Men", it has chosen to rip-off its title (sans the word "The") from a solid Sam Peckinpah action picture from the 70s starring James Caan and Robert Duvall. The Killer Elite is far from Peckinpah's best work, but I'd argue one frame of it beats this noisy, jack hammering and ultimately leaden, meandering macho-man movie.

What will keep Bloody Sam from rolling in his grave is that this is, at least, not a remake of his movie.

Apparently, Killer Elite is a true story.

That hardly makes up for how terrible it is.

Basically what you've got here are two old buddies - Jason Statham and Robert DeNiro - who work as soldier-for-hire assassins. After we get to see a dull, contrived opening action set-piece with them, Statham's character decides it's time to retire. DeNiro doesn't. He's kidnapped and used as ransom for Statham to take another job. His target is ultimately Clive Owen (sporting a really stupid looking moustache), a retired rogue British operative.

Cat and mouse mayhem ensues.

The idea of an action movie starring these three guys thrills me to bits.

Unfortunately they're wasted in an action movie directed by someone who clearly has no idea how to direct action. It's yet another contemporary genre picture with lots of bluster, but far too many closeups and bone headed herky-jerky camera moves and attention-span-challenged editing.

It has none of the style of Guy Ritchie, none of the panache of Neveldine/Taylor and not even the sheer craft of all the Luc Besson hacks.

And it is most certainly not Peckinpah.

McKendry directed an Academy Award nominated short I've never seen, but the shorts I have seen in that arena are usually nothing to write home about. He's also directed commercials. He might be good at that, but he's useless with action. Well, maybe not as incompetent as J.J. Abrams was with action in Mission Impossible III, but that's hardly a glowing recommendation.

I'd take Michael Bay over this guy - hands down.

The trio of stars acquit themselves with their usual professionalism, but it's such a waste seeing them in one of the more unremarkable action pictures made in recent years. Any of the picture's pretensions and/or aspirations to be a "serious" look at the private, illegal wars being fought the world over are just so much lip service. The movie is an excuse for one action set piece after another. There's nothing wrong with that when it's executed properly, but this is strictly by the numbers and worse, it's poorly directed and I reiterate, very noisy.

It also has the dubious distinction of including one of the most pointless car chases I've seen recently. For a car chase to be good, it needs to be well directed. That's a no brainer. For it to truly rise above the rest, it needs to be driven by character.

Seeing as the movie barely has anything resembling characters, it stands to reason that most of the motivating forces behind the action are those of the director - who's not good at executing it anyway.


Killer Elite is being unveiled, rather head-scratchingly, to the world at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2011) and will be released theatrically by e-one Entertainment.

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