Jason Statham (The Italian Job), Academy Awardr nominee Clive Owen (Inside Man) and Academy Awardr winner Robert De Niro (Raging Bull) star in Killer Elite, "one of the best action thrillers of the year!" (Richard Roeper) When two of the world's most elite operatives -- Danny, a retired contract killer (Statham), and Hunter, his longtime mentor (De Niro) -- go up against the cunning leader of a secret military society (Owen), their hunt takes them around the globe from Australia to Paris, London, and the Middle East. As the stakes rise along with the body count, Danny and Hunter are soon plunged into an action-packed game of cat-and-mouse where no one is what they seem. Based on a shocking true story, it's an explosive, no-mercy thrill ride where the predator ultimately becomes the prey.
They're not exactly The Expendables, but the idea of gathering Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro for special ops duty in Killer Elite gives rise to some basic expectations: and sure enough, there's Statham as the cool, compact trained killer, and De Niro as the grizzled seen-it-all-veteran of some very off-the-record assassinations, and Owen as the smooth-talking (and curiously mustachioed) insider with a mess to clean up. These three fellows might indeed make for a badass team in some international thriller, but this particular international thriller is so ham-handed and breathlessly "stylish" that the actors are stranded amidst the relentless noise. De Niro's character gets kidnapped early in the proceedings (and spends most of the movie off-screen), so Statham must come back on the job and rescue his old killer-in-arms. But there's a bigger plot a-turning, based on Ranulph Fiennes's novel, which was allegedly a real tale of espionage, although this claim has been disputed. (This film is not related to Sam Peckinpah's 1975 film The Killer Elite). Director Gary McKendry serves up some bone-crunching moments, which almost drown out the sound of the tin-ear dialogue, and Owen manages to emerge with dignity intact. That will have to suffice as a recommendation for hard-core action fans. --Robert Horton