The only thing about “Killer Elite” that’s even remotely original is that it deals in part with the Arab nation of Oman, which rarely shows up in movies set in that part of the world. It’s always Iraq or Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia or Israel, never Oman. So that’s neat!
Everything else, eh. Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro are the stars, and the movie feels like a vanilla-flavored smoothie of their previous efforts. Even the title is generic (and already used by Sam Peckinpah), watered down from the admittedly softer-sounding but definitely more interesting name of the book it’s based on, “The Feather Men.”
Statham plays Danny, an assassin for hire who declares, after a particularly troubling job, “I’m finished. I can’t do this anymore.” As he says this, we cut to a shot of his hands, which literally have blood on them. Then it’s a year later and — guess what? — Danny is drawn out of retirement. His mentor, Hunter (De Niro), has been captured by an Omani sheikh (Rodney Afif), to be released in exchange for Danny doing the sheikh a favor. The mission: to kill the British special-ops soldiers who killed the sheikh’s sons during a conflict several years earlier. (The movie is set in 1980-81.)
Danny recruits some of his old associates to assist in tracking down and eliminating the men in question, including a wound-up nut named Davies (Dominic Purcell). Meanwhile, middle-aged British men sit in a boardroom and fret about whether their dirty business from before is going to bite them in the arse, and a suave, collected officer named Spike (Clive Owen) sets out to stop Danny and his crew.
While a few individual action scenes are moderately diverting, most of the film (directed by first-timer Gary McKendry) is a rote repetition of the usual twists, double-crosses, and contrived crises. Danny has a girlfriend (Yvonne Strahovski) who doesn’t know about his past; my goodness, you don’t suppose her safety will become an issue, do you?
This is the kind of movie where the retired assassin says, “I’m done with killing,” and his former associate says, “Maybe killing isn’t done with you.” In other words, it’s the kind of movie that seems intended for steady rotation on TBS, not for theatrical viewing.
C (1 hr., 45 min.; )