Killer Elite (2011) Review: Statham Shoots People In The Face

Yell! Magazine’s review of Killer Elite:

Based on a true story.

Yeah, that’s right. That scene where Jason Statham uses a loaf of bread as a silencer is totally real and happened in real life. So is the scene where he does a front flip while tied to a chair — that was based on a true story too. Also, that time an aging Robert De Niro took out a man wielding a knife using only his coat — based on real events.

Killer Elite (2011) Screen Capture
I wish my life was a collection of action movie tropes.

As you can guess, Killer Elite is your basic action-packed Saturday night movie with two main selling points: Jason Statham and a dubious claim to be based on real events. It’s got an oddly convoluted plot and is essentially the same film we’ve seen a dozen times before, but does that mean that it’s not worth watching?

A merc named Danny (Jason Statham) wakes up one morning to find out that his old mentor, Hunter (Robert De Niro) is being held hostage by a decrepit and wealthy sheikh. Three out of four of the sheikh’s sons have been killed by British SAS officers, and now he’s a little pissed. If Jason Statham doesn’t nut up and kill some SAS, then the sheik will kill De Niro. The catch? The assassinations must look like accidents, and the targets must confess to killing the sheikh’s sons on camera.

But wait, there’s more.

Clive Owen plays a former SAS member named Spike, who doesn’t like having his homies iced in cold blood. He decides to grow a ridiculous mustache, and sets out to give Statham a taste of good old-fashioned, ’80s style vengeance.

And it’s all based on a true story!

Killer Elite (2011) Screen Capture
This actually happened.

As far as quality goes, there’s not really anything too special going on here — just a smoothly entertaining action flick that’s played out as straight as possible. Nothing challenging, nothing particularly new, nothing really shocking. Just the usual fare that goes great with beer and buddies.

You’ve got your jittery camera work, you’ve got your no-nonsense mercenaries, and you’ve got your hackneyed tossed in love interest. And hey, it all works. The plot can get complicated sometimes, but Jason Statham is always close by, so you know that there’ll be some reliable ass-kicking right around the corner.

But if there’s one thing to be said about this film, it’s this: If there were no Jason Statham in Killer Elite, then it probably wouldn’t be half as interesting. That guy can carry an entire movie on his shoulders, and still manage to pull it up by a whole Star on the old “X out of 5” rating system. He’s just so much fun to watch, because no matter where he is, you always know something is about to go down.

Killer Elite (2011) Screen Capture
"Damn it, Statham! No one's paying you to smile!"

At one point, he’s disguised as a doctor, and dons a white coat. It’s not revealed at first who the doctor is, but when he turns to the camera, you think “Oh damn, shit’s about to get real.” And indeed it did, my friend. Indeed it did. With a combination of his ice-cold voice and steely gaze, he’s become the most relevant face of the action genre. All he’s got to do is take one step onscreen and you know that some dude is about to lose an eye or get his kneecaps blown off.

So here’s the short version. You’re guaranteed to enjoy Killer Elite if your first thoughts upon seeing the trailer are: “Me like action. This is an action movie. Ergo, Me Likey.” Things are played out as safely and by-the-book as possible, and you can feel free to leave your brain at home. The action is decent, and Clive Owen, Robert DeNiro, and, of course, Jason Statham are all wonderful, wonderful people.

Killer Elite (2011) Screen Capture
No matter how many times the production assistants shaved it off, Clive Owen would keep growing his mustache back in defiance.

However, if action doesn’t cause you to grow tumescent and start sweating heavily, you’ll probably just find yourself bored. You might get an unintentional laugh or two when you see just how goddamn gravelly and stereotypical Statham is, but there’s really not much else there. If that’s the case, just watch Drive instead. Seriously. Why have you not seen Drive? Don’t be an F’ing bozo, man.

The Verdict: [rating:2.5]

Oh yeah – Statham’s become so iconic and such an obvious genre staple that the whole action thing might be wearing thin. That is, unless he goes the route of The Rock, Jackie Chan, and even Schwarzanegger and does a family comedy as his next piece of work. And think about it — wouldn’t you want to see the ice king himself have to deal with the shenanigans of a bunch of bratty schmucks? It’s obvious, shameless and done to death, but my God, would it sell. I’d watch it, and you know that you would too.

Killer Elite (2011) Poster Large
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
23 September 2011
Gary McKendry
Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Dominic Purcell, Aden Young, Yvonne Strahovski, Ben Mendelsohn, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Whiteley, and Robert De Niro
Action, Crime, Thriller
Official URL:
Killer Elite

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