When his last contract goes a bit sideways, Danny decides he wants out of the biz. A few months later, his friend and mentor, Hunter takes a six million dollar job that ends up being over his head. The client has their contact reach out to Danny whose enlisted to finish what Hunter couldn't in exchange for the money and his friend's life.
When I see the words "based on a true story" pop up on the screen I tend to take set film with a grain of salt and KILLER ELITE is no different. This story comes from the novel THE FEATHER MEN, written by Ralph Feinnes' cousin, Ranulph Feinnes, a former SAS officer. Now I have no doubt that anyone involved with the SAS would find themselves encumbered by enough information to put together a tight work of fiction grounded loosely by a hint of fact, but to take this Hollywood-esque blowout at face value seems a bit presumptuous. As a good old fashioned action vehicle however, this flick hits its mark.
I'm a big fan of Jason Statham, the guy came out of nowhere and stepped up the action game at a time when we truly needed it. That said, he's all over the place and a little out of control lately, saturating the genre with an overload of mediocre to decent action flicks but nothing phenomenal. TRANSPORTER and CRANK were alright but the sequels didn't do him much justice. I'm still flabbergasted by the fact that Uwe Boll somehow convinced him IN THE NAME OF KING was worthwhile and as much as I loved WAR and THE EXPENDABLES he was sharing the spotlight in both cases. Statham delivers depth as well as action here and that's the kind of A-game he needs to reach the top. Of course, what he really needs is to stay away from crappy sequels and direct to DVD fare like BLITZ.
The biggest surprise here is Dominic Purcell who in my opinion belongs in this kind film (a welcome change from the garbage role he was given in STRAW DOGS). Purcell can do action and he gets the chance to prove himself here in a substantial role as one of Danny's two crewmembers. I'm always happy to see Robert De Niro and though he doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, when he's there, he's really there (that scene is the subway was an especially nice touch and a true testament to the fact that De Niro can still bring it). Clive Owen's presence is also welcome, he's another underrated favourite of mine. The trailer would have you believe Statham is the hero fighting Owen as the story's villain, but that's not altogether true. Of course, it's not altogether false either. In a world of contract killers, mercenaries, spies and secret societies, drawing the line between good and evil is almost an exact science. Thankfully that's one of the things that makes this story work.
KILLER ELITE could've come off as just another flashy, star studded action piece with no flare or heart but instead it managed to surprise me. The story isn't hard to follow but it's easy to get confused as to who you should be rooting for at times. The action sequences are top notch, the characters are dark, gritty and flawed, which makes them come across as real enough, but there was one thing that made me raise an eyebrow. I don't know about any of you, but for me, walking away from six million dollars seems rather farfetched. Having a great code of ethics or morals is one thing, but at the end of the day, all players involved here are mercenaries of sorts so I just couldn't get behind this one aspect of the ending (don't worry, it's not ruining anything I promise). That aside, ELITE was a slick bit of fun (despite some pacing issues during its last act) but I wouldn't rush to the theatres for this one, you can wait for DVD and BLU-RAY.