Under the Radar

Revisiting the Killer Elite

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Killer Elite is out now in an ultra-complicated Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet combo pack. What's it like on second viewing? Jason Statham's chair attack scene is still awesome, Robert De Niro still keeps checking his watch to figure out just how long it will be until he can go home and Clive Owen's dead eye is even creepier in high-def.

You gotta hope that some day we look back at 2011/2012 as a weirdly confusing time in home video. All the competing formats make it almost impossible to decide how you should watch a movie if you're the kind of honest person who likes to pay for the experience. This version of Killer Elite gives it to you four ways:

1. Blu-ray: This actually looks a lot better than the version I saw screened in a movie theater last fall. That's a problem the movie studios are going to have to figure out. If you wait 3 months, an Amazon or Best Buy copy costs less than tickets, parking, snacks, etc. cost during the theatrical run. If you enjoy Steven Seagal movies and have some friends over so you can all talk during the bad dialog parts, this one wouldn't be a bad investment.

2. DVD: What if you're down at the Redbox and see a rental copy? Well, this looks worse on a big TV. Not terrible, but not as good as seeing it in a theater, either. Killer Elite is supposed to have this gritty documentary/70s action picture look and it really looks pretty muddy if it's not high-def.

3. Digital copy: When you enter your digital download code at iTunes, you get the standard definition version of the movie instead of iTunes' "HD" version. Since you already own the Blu-ray, I guess it's not supposed to matter as much. Still, watching the digital download of this movie is every bit as depressing as watching anything else after you've actually seen the Blu-ray version. It looks almost as good as regular cable TV, which admittedly isn't that high a recommendation.

4. Ultraviolet version: Hollywood's version of a "play anywhere" online digital locker has been labeled a disaster, so I'm glad to report that this system worked a lot better than I expected. There's a lot of complicated registering on the Universal Studios website and the Ultraviolet website but that looks like it's a one-time process. It took a few minutes and a couple of false starts to navigate the menus but it was easier than setting up a PC computer.

What the registration materials included with the disks don't make clear is that you have to take another step if you want to watch your movie on your iPhone or iPad: you also need a Flixster account and you need to link that Flixster account to your Ultraviolet account. Then you have to restart your device and restart the Flixster app for your movie to show up. I gave up on downloading it to my device, but I did stream it on both the iPhone and iPad and the stream looked better than most things you watch on Netflix and maybe even better than the digital download from iTunes.

The Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy all include "14" deleted scenes, most of which are less than a minute long and add almost nothing. There are three Clive Owen scenes that give him a chance to flash his temper, including one where he gets to play Chuck Norris as he takes out a drug dealer.

If you like the trailer and don't get too picky about dialog ("You may be through with killing, Danny, but killing's not through with you"), then you'll probably like the Blu-ray. If you pass on it now, you'll eventually watch this at least five times on the Spike channel.

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