Blu-Ray Review: KILLER ELITE – Statham & Owen Go Head To Head In Flawed Actioner
After the likes of Crank and Shoot Em Up, the prospect of seeing fellow Brit action stars Jason Statham and Clive Owen go head to head is certainly an exciting one. It is therefore intriguing that they chose a relatively low-key true life thriller Killer Elite, released on Blu-ray and DVD this week, as the film that brings them together on screen for the first time. Based on Sir Ranulph Fiennes 1991 novel The Feather Men, the film follows ex-special ops agent Danny Bryce (Statham) as he is lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor Hunter (Robert De Niro) who has been taken hostage in Oman by Sheikh Amr (Rodney Afif) after failing to accomplish a mission for him. Bryce makes a deal to finish the mission which involves killing three former SAS assassins protected by a secret society known as the Feather Men led by Spike Logan (Owen). A global game of cat and mouse ensues as Logan closes in on Bryce and his team with neither side willing to accept failure as an option. With its 1980s setting the film has a great old school spy thriller feel. Aside from a few glaring errors in the period detail, a push button telephone and a London bendy-bus in 1980, the overall look of the film captures the era perfectly with big sideburns and classic motors the order of the day. Director Gary McKendry, making his debut feature, keeps things moving at a decent pace with a good balance of dialogue heavy exposition and while the action may not be the high octane fast paced overblown style that most Statham fans will be used to, it is still of a pretty high standard with a roof top chase between Statham and Owen is a particular highlight. Its business as usual for Statham in a role that plays on all his usual strengths but still finds time to show he has a tender side in a sub-plot involving his largely superfluous Australian girlfriend played by Yvonne Strahovski (TVs Chuck). Owen seems to be relishing the bad guy role with his scarred face adding menace. He brings charisma and intelligence to the part while also proving to be a decent foil for Statham during their several brawls. In fact it is difficult not to root for both characters as they each have an equally valid motives for completing their missions. De Niro has very little impact in a role much smaller than the marketing campaign would have you believe, still I would rather see him take a small role like this than starring in the succession of limp comedy duds that seem to be dominating his recent output. Other members of Stathams team are given significantly more meaty roles with a mesmerising Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) almost unrecognisable as beefed up, cockney Davies channelling Ronnie Barkers Fletch from Porridge and Ralph Browns Danny from Withnail & I to create a truly larger than life character. As Meier, the other member of the squad, Aden Young brings a quiet intensity and unpredictability that completes the team dynamic. Co-financed by Film Victoria and with much of the film shot on location in and around Melbourne it comes as no surprise that the majority of the supporting cast include a number of well known and up and coming Aussie actors. Ben Mendelsohn, who was excellent in last years Animal Kingdom, is largely wasted as one of Owens Feather Men and Firass Dirani, who cut his teeth in the hit Australian mini-series Underbelly, more than holds his own in scenes opposite De Niro despite being obviously awe-struck by the prospect of working with the movie legend. Even with all the other elements of the film nicely slotting into place, Matt Sherrings script is the films biggest problem. His debut screenplay is filled with unforgivable clichés and some real dialogue clunkers ranging from De Niros opening debate on which countrys food is better to trailer friendly lines such as This ends today, Hes your worst nightmare and The gloves are off, making it hard to take the film seriously. There is some debate as to how much of Fiennes book is actually true but it still makes for a compelling story and despite the deeply flawed script, the films old fashioned style and confident direction from McKendry save the film from descending into the realms of parody. The film is most likely only going to appeal to fans of the stars previous works and is therefore unlikely to disappoint as they all deliver solid, dependable turns. Quality The Blu-ray presentation retains the films gritty and grainy style from the original theatrical print. The desaturated colours enhance the period detail of the film and actually make it look like a product of the time while retaining the detail expected of a 1080p transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack offers an impactful presentation offering a good range of loud explosions, crisp gunfire and a clear dialogue track. Extras The special features are sadly light on any real worthy content. A satisfactory 25 minute making of documentary offers some insight into the making of the film with some neat B-roll footage and action scene breakdowns but Statham and De Niro are noticeable by their absence. Statham does however turn up in a short 3 minute interview that is far too short to go into any depth on the film. The original theatrical trailer completes the rather lacklustre package. Film: 3 out of 5 The dependable stars make the best of a flawed script to deliver a well paced, true life actioner. Visuals: 4 out of 5 The 1080p presentation offers a faithful reproduction of the theatrical presentation enhancing the period detail of the film. Audio: 4 out of 5 The audio track offers a good dynamic range from clear dialogue to crisp action sound effects. Extras: 2 out of 5 A slightly lacklustre selection of extras only offer a brief look behind the scenes. Presentation: 3 out of 5 The original poster art is used for the front cover and menus in a fairly standard offering. Overall: 3 out of 5 While not quite the high octane pairing of Statham and Owen that one might have hoped for, Killer Elite is still a good, old-fashioned yarn from a promising new director. Killer Elite is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.