Jason Statham has made this movie several times before. Different title, and usually without the big name supporting cast—Robert De Niro and Clive Owen—but the story of a tough guy who wants to go straight is directly in the actor’s wheelhouse. Either Statham is remarkably consistent or just really enjoys playing guys who can break your neck with his steely gaze. Whatever the case, when you pay your money for Statham flick you know what you’re getting and “Killer Elite” is exactly what you expect it to be.
Based on a true story Statham plays Danny Bryce, an ex- specials ops agent. He’s mad, bad and dangerous to know but trying to cool it on the whole killing people thing. But like Michael Corleone, every time he thinks he’s out they pull him back in. He’s convinced to strap on a gun once again when his mentor and friend Hunter (Robert De Niro) is kidnapped. In return for Hunter’s release Staham agrees to hunt down and murder the assassins of a rich sheik’s sons. He doesn’t count on is a shadow world of government intrigue and a renegade ex-SAS agent (Clive Owen).
Statham movies aren’t about the scripts, which is a good thing because this is a cliché-o-rama from its opening minutes. For example, he’s an ex-mercenary who’s “done with killing” (although it appears that killing is not done with him. He gets called a “crazy S.O.B.”—or some form of that—frequently and is a man who knows when people are lying to him. How does he know? Because their lips are moving. He lives in a world where “everybody knows the rules; there are no rules.”
Every line from the action movie manual is here, along with the prerequisite Statham droplet of romance, the expendable female character who may, or may not become a plot device in the movie’s third act.
It’s predictable as hell. “You gotta be kidding me!” you’ll be tempted to say at some of the plot twists in this movie, if only the characters in the movie didn’t beat you to it first. It’s a cliché-a-thon alright, but because Statham understands his audience and his persona his movies work. His super macho presence is more important than the script. As long as he is in motion, running and leaping, kicking and punching, and giving voice to action movie clichés in his distinctive English grumble his movies work.