with Laura Weaser
Killer Elite. In cinemas now. Directed by Gary McKendry.
Pitched like a Hollywood cat-and-mouse chase but executed like a gritty BBC miniseries, Killer Elite is more than its explosive exterior as it attempts to tell a dark tale of SAS dirty laundry finally washed and aired.
Assassin and former British Elite Special Air Service (SAS) officer Danny (Jason Statham) has retired from the mercenary/hired-gun gig. He is pulled back into action when his mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro) is captured by a sheikh.
For his freedom, Danny must kill three SAS officers that killed the sheikh’s sons during the time when British forces were taking down communist guerrillas in Oman.
As Danny goes on the hunt, things are more complicated than they seem, with retired SAS committee ‘The Feather Men’ keeping an eye on him and former SAS solider Spike (Clive Owen) tracking him down.
Like the film’s mismatched cast of lead names, B-class Australian actors (even our own Outrageous Fortune’s Wolf makes an appearance) and globe-trotting locations, Killer Elite is a strange, multi-layered journey.
The film had me confused from the start.
I was expecting typical Hollywood-style Statham punching and kicking his way around the world with smart-arse quips to save his friend.
Instead, the film delivers more like a British crime-thriller with covert ‘need-to-know’ basis missions coming back to haunt those officers involved, and Danny’s mission unearthing these long-buried issues.
The action – filled with impressive pyrotechnics and death-defying jumps from rooftop to rooftop – was also surprisingly filled with the kinds of grime and gore you would expect from an episode of Ultimate Force.
Bodies are disposed of at pointe blank range, crash victims are unceremoniously laid across the back of vans and ‘accident’ after accident is more vicious than the other as Danny tried to make each hit look unintentional.
Based in the loosest sense on a supposedly true story written by a former SAS officer (and survivor of the ‘Danny’ character’s assassinations), the book itself is a controversial issue as the SAS have refused to acknowledge claiming it is fictional rubbish.
That said, knowing even an inkling of this film could be true, makes it all the more interesting.
For me, it wouldn’t surprise me the horrible things that happen in war and the secrets the SAS keep within themselves.
They are specially trained officers, dispatched on some of the grittiest missions.
Around the supposedly factual basis of the film, I feel two sub-plots have been added to down-play the realistic nature of the film and give it that Hollywood tilt that helps it appeal to mass-market.
One is the romantic sub-plot between Danny and his Australian girlfriend.
This is never really explained and she just seems to exist to show the softer-side to the killing machine and also provide collateral for ‘bad’ guys tot threaten him with.
The other is Hunter’s kidnapping, to justify why Danny needs to kill these former SAS officer.
We couldn’t have our main ‘good guy’ dispatching people for no reason now could we?
This films main problem is it is caught between two worlds – an intriguing story versus Hollywood marketing.
As such, the drama and intensity of espionage secrets and twists becomes underplayed in favour of a good guy-bad guy chase across the world.
This stops the film short of saying anything controversial about the work the SAS did in Oman or making any bold statements as to the political nature of their role during guerrilla warfare.
I guess this wasn’t the right time or place in something pitched as Transporter 4.
The crowd pleaser – Jason Statham ball-busting his way around the world. Flipping out of a building whilst tied to a chair before miraculously getting up and jacking some innocent by-standers vehicle is magical.
The stage dive – The confusing nature of the plot. It had the potential to be more than the sum of its parts but got weighed down having to justify a clear divide between the ‘good guys and the bad guys’ when everyone was equally merciless in their own right.
Final curtain call – An interesting look at the dirty secrets that lurk behind the SAS, stopped short of making an real political and social statement by the need to Hollywood-ise the situation.