Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Revenge Job

For me, personally, when it comes to the cat-and-mouse genre, I'm a snob, and nothing less than The Day of the Jackal will do, and maybe Munich in a pinch.  Michael Lonsdale's the connecting link between the two, incidentally... okay, Freejack as well.  Gattaca has some of that as well, but... damn.  I'm trying to think of another one.  It's certainly not an uncommon construct; if I were better at my craft, I'd say To Catch a Thief is probably the best.
Anyway, Jason Statham, when he's not appearing on "The Tonight Show" talking about "The Situation" or appearing in either a Luc Besson or Guy Ritchie picture, makes the occasional reach for greatness beyond mere ass-kickery.  Don't get me wrong, of course; I'd lose instantly in a fight with either Statham or Fedor Emilianenko.  But his (The) Killer Elite starts out promisingly enough, then dies the death of a couple dozen plot holes.  For the greater good, of course, but I'm still picky about that kind of thing.
Now, Statham may seem like his usual Transporter self here, but in fact, like Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57, he's the best of the best... even though he botches the opening scene a bit.  He and De Niro are an unstoppable hit man duo, although I've been questioning the whole genre lately.  I guess if you're a hit man in a third world country, it's easier to get away.  The Beltway Sniper of about a decade ago is as close we'll come in real life to a gentleman hit man of the cine.
And so, after the opening introductory episode, we get the Mission Impossible: Statham has to take out members of an elite British unit called SAS who were responsible for the deaths of an Oman shiek's sons.  That's right... it's time for Saving Private Riyadh... sorry, that was either awfully corny or terribly racist; I swear I was going for the former... oh, right, almost forgot.  It's the old saw about a guy coming out of retirement to do one last job, but this movie's got a nice twist to it: Statham has to come out of his clearly premature retirement to save De Niro, because De Niro backed out of the job, so they're holding him prisoner in an ad hoc Oman prison.  Apparently all these shieks have prisons built right in to their oil-funded palaces.  Contractual thing.
And so, Statham gathers up his old crew to do the job: nerdy guy, and guy more extrovertly manly than even Statham... hmmm.  Could he be hiding something?  Got closet?  Anyway, now for the impossible part: Statham and company are supposed to get confessions out of the SAS members before killing them.  We're told that this is impossible, because these guys are trained to lie.  Lie under pressure.  Spoiler alert: it doesn't take much to get them to go "Okay, I did it, but so what.  Stuff happens."  I mean, Clooney lost a fingernail in Syriana over much, much less... spoiler alert.  Movies move too fast these days, but for some reason, that special hammer covered in tiles is still stuck in the craw of my mind.
Enter the detective, Clive Owen.  Much like the detective Lebel in The Day of the Jackal, Clive Owen has to go to this group of guys to report that someone is going after our SAS boys.  In this case, the group he meets with is some kind of secret cabal of ex-SAS guys, as opposed to a group of politicians, official law enforcement, and DeGaulle's private army.  Now, Statham quickly gets a chance to kill the Clive Owen character, and gouge out his good eye... but, spoiler alert, no killing takes place because 1) it's still too early in the pic, and 2) Clive Owen's a big star, too, and he's contractually obligated to survive to at least the end of said pic.  So begin our plot holes through which logic, then credibility, is allowed to escape.
This whole story is based on a book by a character named Ralph Fiennes... I'm sorry, that's Ranulph Fiennes.  It's a legitimate typo, however, because they're not-too-distant relatives of each other.  The IMDb will tell you all about it.  After all, The Day of the Jackal is based on a book by a guy named Frederick Forsyth.  The only other movie of his that I can actually vouch for is called The Dogs of War.  I hate to outright call it a stinker... let's say it's stinker-ish.  And, of course, because Christopher Walken's in it, it could've used a little more cowbell.  Ranulph himself figures into the plot of Killer Elite, and he ends up having the worst book signing of his life.  I think the screenwriter(s) punched up this scene a little bit, as they did with some of Statham's stunts (particularly the part where he's tied to a chair)  There is a lot of excitement in Ranulph's IMDb bio, but I just hate to think that this noble, upper-crust-type Brit had to suffer such an undignified incident of bad excitement as does his surrogate in this movie.  I mean, an unattended book signing in the third floor of some nondescript building in the middle of Bum-Rogering Nowhere?  Cheese and crackers!

**1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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