With a domestic box office gross of around $53 million worldwide, Killer Elite was a rather underwhelming dud in the fall of 2011. Is it worth a spin on Blu-ray, now that it is available for home viewing? I’d have to say no, as the movie provides little of interest beyond excellent technical specs. No matter how the high definition picture looks or the 5.1 audio sounds (great in both cases), those elements can’t make up for a confusing, poorly told story. Jason Statham junkies are the key demographic for Killer Elite. The English actor has undeniable charisma but more so than the average action star, he seems to portray the same character in every movie. At least The Expendables allowed for him to indulge in some lighter moments.
Killer Elite has nothing to do with Sam Peckinpah’s 1975 film The Killer Elite. In fact, the film is based on a 1991 novel The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes. The novel was a bestseller but raised some eyebrows with its claims of being “based on a true story.” The film version also claims to be based in truth, but whether or not it’s accurate doesn’t really matter much. Perhaps the book is super compelling, I’ve never read it, but if that’s the case the story didn’t translate well to the screen. Danny Bryce (Statham) is a retired mercenary who left the business after carrying out an assassination in front of the targets child. We see this in the film’s exciting opening sequence. Bryce’s partner Hunter (Robert De Niro) continues that line of work, taking a solo job that lands him in captivity. Bryce finds out about his ex-partner’s misfortune, he feels compelled by guilt to bail him out.
In order to free Hunter, Bryce must complete the failed mission. Sheikh Amr (Rodney Afif) lost three of his four sons to British Special Air Service members amidst the Dhofar Rebellion that Britain supported in the 1960s and ’70s. Bryce must do what Hunter failed: kill the SAS agents responsible for the Sheikh’s loss. The clock is ticking, as the Sheikh is terminally ill and very near death. He wants to see proof of the completed mission before he dies. The set-up is fine, but things get complicated to the point where I stopped caring what happened. For this type of story to work, we need to care about Hunter as a character. We need to sympathize with Bryce and his predicament as he is pulled back into a lifestyle he tried to abandon. Clive Owen adds little to the proceedings as an ex-SAS agent.