Adapted from Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ 1991 book The Feather Men, which claims to be based on a true story, director/co-writer Gary McKendry’s thriller Killer Elite doesn’t come across as a series of factual events, but I don’t hold that against the movie because I was entertained by the better-than-expected story among the stunts.
After a job doesn’t run as smoothly as it should during the prologue, Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) retires from working as an international assassin. Not surprisingly, he is coerced back into action when his mentor, Hunter (Robert De Niro), is held hostage by exiled Sheikh Amr (Rodney Afif) after Hunter accepted the money for a job and then tried to flee the country with it once he learned how difficult the task was. To gain Hunter’s release and the original bounty of $6 million, Danny has to takeover the job, which requires killing the three former British Special Air Service officers who killed the sheikh’s sons and also getting their confession on videotape. Once these men are killed, the sheikh’s son may return to their homeland and regain the family’s throne in place of his ill father.
Danny reunites with a couple of associates, and they begin to execute (pun intended) their task, which grows increasingly difficult. That’s because a man never leaves the S.A.S. when he retires from active duty as an unofficial group looks out for the welfare of former members. Once a hint that members are in danger is discovered, Spike (Clive Owen), who is just as ruthless as Danny, is given the task to protect the men.
Though Statham’s past movies are known for their action as opposed to their plots, the story of Killer Elite is the movie’s driving force. Since everyone is a killer, there are no good guys to root for and the characters are on a level playing field. This equality contributes to everyone believably being able to outfight and outsmart each other at different times. The characters continually turn the tables on each other and keep the viewer’s interest.
Gary McKendry’s makes a good feature film debut as director by casting well; shooting the action in a clear, straightforward manner; and not drawing attention to himself.
Killer Elite is not a unique take on the spy genre but it is a fun, possibly true though likely made-up, adventure. It shows that a little bit of effort in writing the story goes a long way in making an entertaining movie.