REVIEW: The Killer Elite

Director: Gary McKendry Written by: Matt Sherring (screenplay), Ranulph Fiennes (book) (inspiration)

Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro

When his mentor (Robert Deniro) is taken captive by a rogue Sheik, a retired assassin (Jason Statham) is forced into action. His mission: kill three former British SAS operatives responsible for killing the Sheik’s sons. In his way, a former SAS Operative (Clive Owen) and a shady organisation called ‘The Feathermen’.

I went into the The Killer Elite remembering one thing, the total shock and bewilderment of my That Movie Show co-host Mr Dale Sinden when I asked him what he thought of it. 1. I already know that he detests Jason Statham – so there’s a potential for a skewed opinion and 2. he’ll give any flick a chance.

The Killer Elite has been billed as yet another action vehicle for Jason Statham via the trailers/tv spots etc but instead it’s a long sprawling, international espionage thriller that seems to be lacking in almost every way possible. Just like Contraband, the trailer deceives, but instead of the movie being the Transporter 24 with Robert Deniro and Clive Owen (as it’s portrayed in teaser form)  you find is a Munich style international assassination espionage film but mutated with every possible cliche that you’ve seen before. Some of the great plot devices are as follows: the moral retired assassin has to come back for one last job – because his mentor is kidnapped; soldiers just doing what was ordered are being hunted down for their combat kills; all the kills have to look like accidents; *spoilers* the men setting them up for the job may stab them in the back; Rich arabs deal in revenge; Westerners are fighting in the Middle East for Oil;  the bad guy has one eye; old British men are shady etc.

The direction, other than some brief frenetic pieces of action, feels like it was made for Australian T.V a decade ago. There’s something about the production design that makes it look ‘cheap’. The film was shot in Melbourne, which will explain why there’s such a large ancillary cast of good Aussie actors peppered throughout the film. But this could also explain that the budget was quite small.

Jason Statham’s performances in Lock Stock and Snatch demonstrated range that has not been seen since. He’s a blunt instrument, hard bodied, laconic action star and his lack of range (forgive my bluntness) is boring as hell to watch.

Clive Owen is an inconsistent acting talent. In films such as The Bourne Identity, Sin City, Children of Men, Closer and Duplicity he’s magnetic, charming, intense, heartbreaking, raw, emotive, and affective. However his performance in The Killer Elite is aligned much more with films such asDerailed, Shoot ‘Em Up, King Arthur a.k.a all of those bad films that he’s utterly forgettable in and that you wouldn’t even dive into a bargain bin for.

Robert Deniro is one of the greatest acting talents of all time; but his film choices and performances of the last decade do not even come close to the career defining roles of his past e.g. Taxi Driver, Godfather Part II, Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Cape Fear, Heat etc. However I must admit that he’s still got an amazing presence. Despite some of the clunky dialogue and scenarios he’s presented – I found him to be the most authentic and believable character in the film. I really hope that someone looks to give him a run at an action film (ala Liam Nesson’s Taken) because he sold some of the ass-kicking that he dished out in this film.

The Killer Elite is a flabby, cheap looking, mess of a film that has a saving grace in the performance of Deniro.


Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at and with & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.