DVD Review - Killer Elite

Robert De Niro (left) &
Jason Statham in "Killer Elite"
This is an example of taking a good book with an interesting idea and narrative and completely butchering it. I understand that when adapting a book into a movie, liberties have to be taken and people, places and events have to be condensed, combined or cut, but this movie does so detrimentally.

Killer Elite is based on the novel The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes who to my knowledge bears no relation to Ralph Fiennes. Ranulph Fiennes is in the Guinness Book of World Records. He was part of the Transglobe Expedition in 1979, which he led with fellow members of the Special Air Service or SAS.

The SAS is an arm of the British Army that was created after World War II. During wartime, the SAS performs certain strategic operations. During peace time, the SAS helps with counter-terrorism. When Fiennes published his novel, he claimed the events in it were true. Those events included an assassination attempt on Fiennes himself because of his relationship with the SAS.

Allegedly, the SAS killed the son of a Dubai sheikh in Oman, a Middle Eastern country, while battling Communist guerillas there. The sheikh ordered a hit squad known as "The Clinic" to assassinate the people involved in his son's death. This ultimately meant the assassination of four British Army soldiers, two of which were SAS members.

According to the book, these four assassinations took over a decade to accomplish. The reason, presumably, was the deaths couldn't be simple bullets to the head, or at least all of them couldn't be because that would draw too much attention. The deaths had to look like accidents, which is a perfect cover against those that argue that none of this was true.

The validity of Fiennes' story has been challenged. The reason that he says it's true is because Fiennes himself was supposed to be the fifth assassination. Allegedly, a group of men who were dubbed the Feather Men saved Fiennes. These Feather Men were former SAS members who task themselves with protecting current SAS members and their families. The Feather Men subsequently disclosed files and information to Fiennes about all that was happening.

Killer Elite takes this exciting and controversial story and makes a total mess of it. It's not just there are so many discrepencies in this movie that divulge from the novel. Many adapted movies do that, if not all. The problem is the discrepencies make the movie more confusing, instead of more concise and clearer. It's one thing to want to save time but what this movie does is literally put too many things all over the map.

Essentially, the story is a revenge tale that pits two highly-skilled groups against each other. It's simple. The moral and political questions that arise or that are implied are complicated, but the basic story is and can be simple. Yet, Matt Sherring's screenplay absolutely muddles things.

Jason Statham (The Italian Job and Transporter) stars as Danny Bryce, an Australian hit man who decides he doesn't want to kill people after a job goes bad. Robert De Niro co-stars as Hunter, a veteran hit man whose latest job ensnares Danny. It's a convoluted kidnapping plot that involves a sheikh and some plan to control land and oill. It all gets too twisted that I ceased to care.

Sherring just couldn't keep it simple. He piles on too much. He's already juggling a lot that he had to throw more balls in the air. What falls is the fact that Clive Owen co-stars as Spike, a so-called member of the Feather Men, but he's given such short shrift here that the whole idea of the Feather Men, the power and intrigue of it, is lost.

We jump from murder to murder, all the while interweaving these Middle Eastern politics that go no where. Statham and Owen are two powerhouse figures who both are distinguished for their uber masculinity, Statham more so, and obviously the point is to see the two of them square off, much as it was to see Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson square off in Fast Five.

Director Gary McKendry has a centerpiece that consists of a chase that is rather unimaginative. It's certainly less so than Fast Five, which had its characters running across the tops of shanty town roofs in Brazil.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong violence, language and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.


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