Feb 122012


An elite killer is summoned from his idyllic retirement in the Yarra Valley, Australia to complete one last job that will save his friend, and allow him to live out his life in peace.

So was the film elite? Read the review after the jump.

Killer Elite follows ex assassin Danny (Jason Stantham) who is forced out of retirement to complete one last job. Danny’s former buddy and fellow assassin Hunter (Robert Di Niro) is being held by a wealthy and powerful Sheik. In order to gain Hunter’s release, Danny must avenge the murders of the Sheik’s three sons who were killed by three very skilled operatives. All three operatives are linked to/part of an organisation called ‘The Feather Men’, which Spike (Clive Owen) is associated with. And so begins a game of killing and cat & mouse, where Danny and his henchmen attempt to knock the targets off before Spike can catch up and stop them.

The film is based on the rather controversial novel The Feather Men by ex British soldier Sir Ranulph Fiennes. However, it’s extremely hard to believe that anything in this story is based on anything even close to reality. The motivation for the violent killings and destruction wrecked by Danny and his crew throughout this film is extremely weak. The three men have to be killed so that the last living son of the once powerful Sheik can return back to his people and take his rightful place of power. However, the son doesn’t even want to return back and the man who has ordered all of this is dying. It’s utterly preposterous. So what the audience is left with is a man on a questionable assassination mission that we’re not even sure that we can support – especially when we learn that the Sheik’s sons were most probably killed in war/combat, and the killers are all former British Special Force soldiers.


Clive Owen’s character’s story and place in the film is extremely awkward and he never really feels like he fits into the narrative of the film. He is part of “The Feather Men” organisation – an organisation which seems to be responsible for the keeping the questionable history of the special forces in the past. He controls “the heavies” who are supposed to protect the men and diffuse any trouble that might pop up. His dialogue is wooden, his action scenes are clunky, and his moustache is ridiculous. He is a shadow of a fully formed character.

On the positive side this may be one of Robert Di Niro’s best roles in some time. He doesn’t have much screen-time; but when he does make an appearance, he plays the part an old hardened élite killer rather well.

The action scenes in this film are lacking in both intensity and originality. Scenes play out as you would expect they would, with bullets flying from Danny’s guns indiscriminately at the seemingly endless supply of European and Middle Eastern bad guys for him to take down. Statham does a fairly decent job as the hardened action man. If you’ve seen him any other action roles, then you’ve seen him in this role. While there are a few interesting car chase scenes, it’s hard to be invested in the outcome of the action when you’re not really sure you support the reasoning behind it in the first place.


In an attempt to add some dimension and an international flavour, the action plays out in England, France, Australia, and the Middle East. Although the film never explicitly spells it out, it seems that Danny himself is an Australian who spent much time in Europe before he “retired” and returned to Australia. The men he recruits to help him seem to be connected to some larger European-Australian criminal network. The main reason the nationalities of the characters are hard to pin down is their accents are all over the place. Statham is speaking with an Australian accent one scene, and a rough British accent the next. It’s very distracting and takes the you out of the film.

One last point that has to be mentioned is the girlfriend. Danny has an Australian girlfriend whom he lives with in Australia, but who knows nothing about his former life. The presence of this girlfriend is purely perfunctory and she is not given any opportunity to develop into a real character. Her function in the film is to be an emotional anchor and something which makes Danny somehow real and someone we can feel for. This completely fails. She could be a cardboard cut-out for all the good she does. An absolutely pointless and one-dimensional character.

Overall Killer Elite is an uninteresting action film which has very few redeeming qualities. Some decent acting from Di Niro and a couple of great chase scenes are not enough to make up for the ridiculous premise which the entire film rests on. In addition this film is long – at 90 minutes it may have been passable, at 116 minutes it is almost unbearable.

The Facts

Director: Gary McKendry
Writer(s): Matt Sherring (Screenplay), Ranulph Fiennes (book)
Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro
Runtime: 116 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: February 23rd 2012; New Zealand: February 16th 2012