You know from the get-go that if a movie like this claims to be based on a true story, it is anything but. Loosely based on a book by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Killer Elite is essentially a Jason Statham vehicle that his fans will enjoy.
In 1980, Danny Bryce (Statham) is an assassin who quits after killing a target in front of his young son in Mexico. After a year away from the bloody business, he lives quietly in rural Australia, when his friend Hunter (Robert De Niro) is taken hostage by Sheikh Amr (Rodney Afif), who looks a lot like Osama Bin Laden. In Oman, Danny is given the mission to assassinate and get confessions from three SAS soldiers who killed his sons during the Dhofar Rebellion. If he fails, Hunter dies, but if he succeeds, Hunter will be freed and he will get $6 million. As Danny and his team start hunting down these men, a secret society of ex-SAS soldiers become worried about the death of their former companions and get their enforcer, Spike (Clive Owen), to investigate and stop the assassinations.
Killer Elite is basically The "Bourne" series if it was louder, dumber and bloodier. Most of the action is shot similar to Paul Greengrass efforts using shaky cam, tight close-ups and quick editing. It is similar in tone because of its intelligence espionage setting, but not done as well. Director Gary McKendry shoots in a gritty style, very much like a 1970s thriller or Tony Scott's Man on Fire, but that gritty tone is undermined by silly scenes such as the meeting of the Feathermen club, which uses terrible dialogue to explain their origins. It was really clunky seeing as their men know each other.
This movie has a number of action thriller clichés: a job that goes wrong, an assassin forced to leave the underworld and forced back into it when a loved one is kidnapped, and the timeless killer with a conscience so that innocent people do not get hurt. It is hardly an original action movie, but there are at least some fun shoot-outs and chases.
Because of the period setting, the use of a shadowy organisation and the involvement of a real person, Killer Elite reminded me a lot of another Statham movie, The Bank Job. Its style and look makes Killer Elite "The Bank Job 2" in all but name. Fans of The Bank Job will get a kick out of this movie.
De Niro is in this movie for the paycheck. He gives a phoned-in performance and it shows with his little screen time. Statham is his typical gruff self, but that is what he is good at and he is always impressive in a fight scene. Owen is the best performer in a movie filled with average performances.
Overall, Killer Elite is a loud, typical action thriller that is not going to set the world alight, but it is still entertaining for Statham fans.