Review: Even With Robert De Niro, ‘Killer’ Isn't So Elite

Assassination thriller takes promising ingredients — including an intriguing subplot about the Feather Men — and then squanders them

A routine action thriller which occasionally hints that at some point in its road to the big screen it may have aspired to be more, “Killer Elite” centers on Danny (Jason Statham), a highly skilled, international paid assassin.

Early in the movie, he yanks open the door of a car containing a powerbroker target and, to his horror, realizes that a young child is sitting alongside his intended quarry. This is the straw that brakes Danny. Fed up with all the occupational carnage, he quits the hired killer racket, retiring to rural Australia where he hopes to lead a quiet life.

Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

Allegedly based on true incidents, the movie is derived from “The Feather Men,” a 1993 book by British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes that is often tagged, for lack of a better term, as a “non-fiction novel.” In the book, the Feather Men, so called because of their light touch, are a shadowy group of powerfully connected British machers who order up covert military operations worldwide to protect United Kingdom interests.

In “Killer Elite,” Danny is dragged back into his old line of work when Hunter (Robert De Niro), his longtime ex-partner and mentor, is kidnapped by an elderly potentate in Oman. The chieftain tells Danny that he will free Hunter only if Danny tracks down and snuffs out three members of British special ops forces who killed the strong man’s sons.

Once Danny begins efficiently dispatching his targets, it becomes ever clearer that nothing is as it first seemed and there are powerful forces in England — including Clive Owen as a former special ops leader — who don’t wish him well. Soon, Danny himself is a target.

“Killer Elite” takes promising ingredients, including its trio of charismatic lead actors and an intriguing subplot about the Feather Men — and then squanders them in a routine recipe. The film is little more than scene after scene of gunplay, chase scenes and spilled blood, accompanied by on-screen headers informing us that we’re now in London, Paris, Oman or some other global hotspot.

First-time director Gary McKendry, who cowrote the screenplay, fails to give the film the kind down-the-rabbit-hole intensity or convincing peephole view of realpolitik that distinguishes the Bourne trilogy and other top-notch films in the genre.

Like a tea bag on second usage, this recycled action thriller provides only a weak brew.