"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
- John Lennon
English screen stud Jason Statham is rapidly earning a reputation as the meanest and most ruthless on-screen lethal weapon in recent cinema – a 20th century Clint Eastwood if you like. And in Killer Elite, he earns another gold star sticker for his wall of Hollywood "tough guy" roles.
Here he plays, well, Jason Statham really, but for the purposes of a synopsis he is called Danny Bryce, an SAS assassin who has retired to his trailer home in Victoria, Australia. Upon receiving news that his mentor and friend Hunter (Robert De Niro) has been taken hostage by a deposed king of a small region of Oman, he comes out of retirement for – you guessed it – one last job.
Hunter had not completed a job for this former king so Danny must finish it or Hunter dies. He must kill three former SAS agents for murdering three of the king's four sons, videotape their confessions, and make their deaths look like an accident. On his mission, he stumbles on the toes of Spike Logan (Clive Owen), head enforcer of a group called 'The Feather Men, a secret society of former operatives protecting their own. With Spike on his back, Danny has limited time to track down the targets and keep Hunter alive. Have you followed all that?
This is essentially another one of those 'one last job' films with big crashes, big explosions, big guns and big stars. Based on the book The Feather Men by ex-British Army Officer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, which is based on a true story, much of the plot feels overtly fabricated and fictionalised. The 'true' story is there as a foundation but then the 'action movie' takes over and layers the film with shoot-ups, blow-ups, punch-ups and screw-ups in terms of what could be considered as 'believable' conflict.
Once again, the camera is all over the place, and given that it's directed by another newcomer – Gary McKendry – it's very much been a case of "what's going to make teenagers go "wow!"?" In terms of the 'wow' factor, there are some pretty exciting – although improbable – set pieces particularly involving Statham. The film is indeed action-packed and moves at lightning speed.
Given the Australian setting in some scenes, an interesting dynamic is evident with the presence of some Australian actors including Lachy Hulme, Ben Mendelsohn and Firass Dirani from television's Underbelly: The Golden Mile. While it's refreshing to see some homegrown talent help to populate this otherwise Hollywood action flick, it is a shame they all put on accents, mainly British.
When all is said and done, Killer Elite pretty much critic proof; it is what it is, and that's an overblown action/adventure ride that is effective as far as an action film can go. But the plot is just a bit too complicated for the kind of audience this will attract. A formula brute battle with some merit.