Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Film Review: Killer Elite (2011)

Killer Elite (2011)
Rated: R
Running Time: 105 min
Genres: Action | Thriller

Jason Statham as Danny (Our Hero)
Clive Owen as Spike (Primary Villian)
Robert De Niro as Hunter (Our Hero's Hero)
Dominic Purcell as Davies
Aden Young as Meier
Yvonne Strahovski as Anne
Ben Mendelsohn as Martin
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Agent
David Whiteley as MI6 Man
Matthew Nable as Pennock
Lachy Hulme as Harris
Firass Dirani as Bakhait
Nick Tate as Commander B
Bille Brown as Colonel Fitz
Stewart Morritt as Campbell
and a host of others who are generally inimical to Our Hero and his Friends.

I wanted to see this action film because I was in the mood for something that did not require a lot of thinking, that had things blowing up with a nice, loud bang and might have naked women in it. This film satisfies the parameters pretty well, but there's an added attraction that made me glad I went to see it; It's based on a true story. Just how true is up for debate, but after reading about the author I'm inclined to read the book and decide for myself.  Here's a film review without spoilers.
The film is about an ex-special forces mercenary type who wisely decides to retire from the business of making mischief in far away places that feature primitive plumbing and lack potable water, air conditioning and penicillin.  One thing all these places have in common is ample supplies of petroleum; another thing is that the major industry is not petroleum - it's law enforcement.  While Our Hero retired, Our Hero's Hero, Robert De Niro, did not retire and subsequently got himself caught by a fiendishly wealthy screwball Islamic Sultan (or Caliph or something) who wants revenge and is willing to use De Niro as leverage to get it, along with a payment of six zillion dollars in U.S. greenbacks.  Faced with the typical carrot and stick gambit, Our Hero comes out of retirement and tears around the world reducing property values and population until De Niro can be sprung.  Now then, all that is predictable and expected, but it doesn't quite happen that way.  At this point you'll want to sit up and start paying attention because the plot departs from the simple action movie plot that we all know and love, and heads into the treacherous waters of, say,  War and Peace.

Aside from a complex but believable plot, the other great thing about the film are the settings.  Exotic sports cars and luxury hotels are kept to a bare minimum.  Nobody's Ferrari gets trashed and burned.  Instead the locales are a series of butt crack third world nations; real cesspools.  With one notable exception the de rigueur bevy of red hot women in various states of undress are conspicuously absent as are a lot of other plot devices and action film dressing.  For instance, Our Hero has a visible means of support which is a nice twist.

We're also treated to several good fight scenes.  Now, anyone who has ever been in a brawl will take one look at this movie hooey and tell you that "It just doesn't work like that" and be done with it.  They're right, but that doesn't mean the fight scenes aren't fun to watch anyway.  There are also chase scenes that are slightly more realistic and also fun to watch.  The nice thing is that none of these things get in the way of the complex plot.

The thing that interested me about this film is that it's purported to be based on a true story.  So is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and we all know how true that one is.  Okay, for those readers who don't know, the film is not even remotely close to anything that ever happened to anyone anywhere ever, in the entire history of the world.  The character Leatherface was inspired by Edward Theodore "Ed" Gein from Plainfield, Wisconsin who eventually died in a mental hospital in Madison, Wisconsin in 1984.  Ed was nuts.  See?

As I was saying, the film is adapted from the book The Feather Men, which is now published as Killer Elite (previously published as The Feather Men), by Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet of Banbury, Officer of the Order of the British Empire.  Reading a little about Sir Fiennes reveals that the man is a true adventurer, ex-SAS and a class A hell raiser.  Fiennes once dynamited a singularly unsightly dam that had been erected by a movie company in order to film some meaningless Hollywood drivel.  While the townspeople cheered, the SAS was not amused and dealt rather harshly with their bastard child and his accomplices.  Anyway, Fiennes wrote the book and says it's true, and if it is then it is.  Read it and make up your own mind.  Given that Fiennes holds a number of Guinness World Records I'm inclined to buy his book, read it and make up my own mind as to the veracity.  I suspect that it's true, for the most part.

The film is rated R, and I think that's a mistake.  I'd take it down a notch or maybe two, depending on how I felt that day.  I'm giving this film an 8, but that's due to the author.  If it wasn't for that, I'd rate it a solid 6 and recommend the DVD version.  Like I said, I'm glad I went to see it and I paid full price.

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