Thursday, July 31, 2014

KILLER ELITE

Okay, I'll admit it. I was wrong.

When I first heard about the 2011 action film, KILLER ELITE, I immediately (and mistakenly, as it turns out) assumed that it had to be a remake of THE KILLER ELITE, a 1975 Sam Peckinpah film starring James Caan and Robert Duvall. With that misconception solidly in place, I cavalierly dismissed the film without ever really knowing anything about it.

I know about it now after watching it the other day. The film is loosely based on a true story that was told in the book, The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. It seems that back in 1980, a small war was fought in the nation of Oman between that country's forces and the elite British special forces unit, the SAS. It also appears that this conflict was not widely reported to the world at large.

Casualties in the war included several sons of Sheikh Amr, who, in 1981, now wants to extract revenge for their deaths. To do so, he lures ace mercenary Hunter (Robert DeNiro) into a trap and forces his partner, Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) to go after the men who killed his sons in exchange for Hunter's freedom. Danny, along with the other members of his mercenary outfit Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young), set out to track and kill the SAS soldiers responsible for the deaths. Oh yeah, the deaths have to be engineered to look like accidents.

Danny and his men are successful but they soon come afoul of SAS member Spike Logan (Clive Owen), a man who is in service to a secret, shadowy organization comprised of wealthy and influential British businessmen and politicians. Turns out they were the ones behind the Oman war and they're still manipulating things on a global scale in pursuit of real power and treasure: oil. Danny and Spike wage an ongoing battle before realizing that they've both been played.

With nice location photography (Oman, London, Paris) and well staged car chases and shootouts, KILLER ELITE acquits itself quite nicely as a solid action film. There's enough twists and turns in the screenplay by Matt Sherring to keep you guessing and director Gary McKendry keeps things moving at a brisk pace.

Robert DeNiro is solid as the grizzled, veteran mercenary but the real stars of KILLER ELITE are Statham and Owen. Both men are very good at what they do and both have their own motivations for being professional killers. They give as good as they get in several kinetic fight scenes that are a joy to watch.

Yep, I was wrong about KILLER ELITE. It's not a remake at all (despite the unfortunate similarities of the titles) but an original, well-crafted 21st century action/espionage thriller. Thumbs up.

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