Cast: Danny (Jason Statham), Spike (Clive Owen), Hunter (Robert De Niro), Davies (Dominic Purcell), Meier (Aden Young), Anne (Yvonne Strahovski), Martin (Ben Bendelsohn), Agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)
Director: Gary McKendry
Theatrical release: 09/23/2011 DVD Date: 01/10/2012
Rating: R Running Time: 116 minutes
Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the 1991 fact-based book The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.
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Review: The events portrayed in this film were described in a purportedly fact-based book some no doubt consider it a work of fiction by Ranulph Fiennes published in 1991. As mentioned just before the closing credits, "It was greeted with huge controversy and official government denial. To this day the full involvement of the SAS in the Oman war remains highly classified under Britain's official secrets act. The fate of Danny Bryce and the other covert operatives remains unknown or undisclosed."
Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, and Clive Owen star in this film as characters they are so well known for that they could probably portray them in their sleep. And that's part of the problem here, that despite a few fewer than you might think action scenes they aren't stretched in the least to make their respective characters somehow different, or more interesting, than we already expect them to be. They're all good, but stereotypically good.
The film is set in the early 1980s the filmmakers are a little sloppy with their dates and opens with a gambit to establish the relationship between De Niro and Statham, Hunter and Danny, mentor and protιgι. Fast forward a year and Hunter is now being held captive by an Omani sheikh, who blackmails Danny into killing the three men, who killed three of his sons. The facts surrounding what happened to his sons and why are glossed over but Danny doesn't care, his motivation is personal, not political. (The political element to the story is, no surprise, clearly one-sided. And while some may take sides, in the end it doesn't much matter as it is all very confusing and surprisingly unimportant to the film as a whole.)
Danny assembles a team and they proceed to take out two of the killers in quick order. But by the time they are planning the third, they have attracted the attention of Clive Owen's character, Spike. Now I was never quite sure what Spike's job is, but he is a covert operative for the British government of some sort and has a personal relationship with the third killer, who he (correctly) suspects is the next on the list. Spike sets out to stop Danny, but then things go very wrong. And I was lost again. Danny kills who he thinks is the right guy, but who is the wrong guy, yet gets Hunter freed based on what he does know, but then Spike continues to go after them because he fears that once they whoever "they" may be realize that the wrong guy is dead that they'll come back for the right guy. Or something like that. The character of Ranulph Fiennes makes an appearance as well, but I never did understand what role he played in the whole affair or why he was a target and who wanted him dead. (He obviously had to be a participant at some level, since he wrote of the events in his book.)
The cat-and-mouse game played between Danny and Spike is probably the most interesting aspect to the film and should have been played up more than it was. It starts way too late to make a significant difference.
Despite being frequently confusing as the storyline unfolds, Killer Elite has its moments. Overall, though, it just feels familiar and routine.