Under the Radar

'Killer Elite' Viewer's Guide



All that "based on a true story" promotion for Killer Elite and the casting of Robert De Niro and Clive Owen might make you think it's one of those grownup, serious thrillers like The Debt or Contagion. Don't be fooled.

Killer Elite is total cheeseball nonsense, closely related to those Steven Seagal flicks that clog up the Spike and USA cable networks in the middle of the night. Since the mainstream movie reviews seem to be focusing on irrelevant questions (like whether this is a "good" movie), here are a few things to consider before deciding whether to put down your money to see it in a theater or just wait to watch it 36 times on cable next year.

Jason Statham beats the crap out of one of the bad guys while Jason himself is tied to a chair during an interrogation. It definitely makes Daniel Craig's James Bond look completely ineffective in that torture scene from Casino Royale.

Robert De Niro sleepwalks through his role in epic fashion. It feels like they filmed his entire performance in about two days and that he's reading lines that are scribbled on his hand in fountain pen. This is not a criticism. It's like his entire performance was inspired by the honey badger.

Clive Owen plays a British operative who was kicked out of the military after he lost sight in one eye. Clive owns that cloudy eye, so much that it seems like he just took the part so he could wear that badass contact lens for a few weeks.

Killer Elite claims to be based on a true story, but it's really based on some Brit fantasies/conspiracy theories about what badasses they were in the Middle East back in the late '70s. None of it makes any sense, but focusing your attention on that will cause you to lose track of the reasons why you're enjoying this movie (see Statham, Jason; Owen, Clive and De Niro, Robert above).

There's one incredibly distracting moment where Clive Owen is watching the news on tv in a London bar and sees that the Killer Elite have knocked off another one of the guys he's trying to protect. He stomps into the next room, sneers at a group of punk rockers and unplugs the jukebox in honor of his dead friend. Except the jukebox is playing "New Race" by the Australian band Radio Birdman, a song that was never released on 45 in the UK. It's sort of the Oz version of "Satisfaction" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit," that one overwhelmingly influential song that inspired a thousand bands.

There are dozens of UK punk rock songs that would have worked at that moment, why pick something that totally screws up the scene? Maybe it's because the whole damn movie was funded with Australian government film grants, a fact that shows up in the credits. Don't get me wrong, the song is awesome and it should inspire you to buy the Radio Birdman greatest hits on iTunes.

Other distractions: Jason Statham still can't play a romantic scene, the sets for the Omani palace are incredibly bad and Clive Owen's flat is far more depressing that it needs to be.

If you've already seen Drive, you might want to check out Killer Elite: the chair scene is worth $10 all by itself.

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