While not high art by any means, Killer Elite is an entirely enjoyable (if not altogether memorable) exercise in action film-making. Set in 1981 and presumably based very loosely on events detailed in Ranulph Fiennes's 1991 book The Feathermen, Killer Elite is Gary McKendry's first feature-length film with his only other directorial credit being the Academy Award nominated short Everything in This Country Must. With oil contracts and unrest in the Middle East being integral to the story, it seems like the events in the film could just as likely happen today.
Killer Elite pits Jason Statham's Danny Bryce, a mercenary, against an ex-SAS shadow group employing Clive Owen's Spike Logan as the chief operative. Using the captured mentor Hunter (Robert DeNiro) as leverage, an Omani Sheikh coerces Bryce to avenge the deaths of his three sons by taking out the SAS agents who killed them during the Dhofar Rebellion.
The justification for what follows is present, and for the most part earned. To qualify this motivation as original or interesting would be going a step too far, but the most important aspect of the film works: the action sequences. Whether chase sequences, elaborate hits, or hand-to-hand combat scenes, these elements of the action flick are convincing and well-choreographed. They aren't game-changers, but it's enough to feel like your time is warranted.
Is this a great action film? Probably not. Fortunately, it has the aptly cast Statham in his typical role with a suitable foe in the form of Clive Owen, whose role is underdeveloped but has the gravitas to hold his own against the prototypical Statham hero. With these two in tow, it's hard not to at least enjoy the ride.