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Killer Elite (2011)

May the Best Man Live

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 116 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

The Eighties – a time of awful cars, hilariously bad facial hair and, according to Killer Elite’s rather grim prologue, wars, and oil and economic crises. Gary McKendry’s thriller has all of these things in spades.

This remake of sorts of 1975’s The Killer Elite – not that I’ve seen it so I can’t comment – stars Jason Statham as Danny, a highly talented assassin (why revert from type?) who is sent on a deadly mission in exchange for the life of his killing buddy (De Niro) who’s been kidnapped by a rich Sheikh (Afif). Danny and his team (including Purcell and Young) must find three men who killed three of the Sheikh’s sons during covert SAS action in tribal wars in Oman. They come up against a secret society – with an angry attack dog called Spike (Owen) – determined to keep these men safe.

The attention to detail in Killer Elite is remarkable. The setting of the 1980s is faithfully kept and it looks suitably depressing, rundown and unglamorous whilst avoiding looking like a cheap TV cop drama. Everything down to the array of rectangular cars, clothes, the medicines seen in a hospital and kitchen appliances are recreated exquisitely.

Unfortunately, Killer Elite is not just and museum piece and it’s the entertainment value that doesn’t quite live up to it’s promise. Yes, it is based on a true story (vehemently denied by the British government) but it’s still a relatively uninteresting ride with a half baked, overly complicated conspiracy subplot tacked onto the end. I found I couldn’t sympathise with any of the characters and most of the identikit victims of the gang of assassins are just names without backstories or personalities. However, the understated action is pulled off quite well as, with a lack of explosions and crazy stunts, a lot still happens and the pace is quick throughout.

It's Got: Decent understated action, exquisite attention to detail, Jason Statham playing the same character as always

It Needs: Better characterisation, a slightly more interesting plot


A standard conspiracy thriller that looks great but doesn’t really deliver on entertainment value. Gary McKendry does succeed in making watching Killer Elite feel just like stepping back in time to Britain in the grim 1980s though.