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Killer Elite: Very Average Action Film
Danny (Statham), formerly the best assassin in the business, has retired. His conscience just won’t allow him to kill people anymore. He’s been unwillingly sucked back into the game one last time to help out his old buddy Hunter (De Niro) who’s run afoul of a revenge-seeking Omani oil baron. Danny has to track down and kill the three British agents that killed the oil baron’s sons so that Hunter can walk free again. These agents belonged to the SAS, a secret military society, and their leader Spike (Owen) is hot on Danny’s heels.
Killer Elite is apparently set in the 80s, but apart from Spike’s ridiculous moustache and one of the assassins’ Lemmy Kilmister facial hair; there’s nothing to mark it as a period flick. On second thought, there actually is this one part where said assassin blasts The Clash’s ‘I Fought the Law’ during a break into a military base no less.
Other than that, the film drags on for too long. It’s fine until Danny completes the mission but then he finds out that he still has one more guy to kill and that’s one guy too many. The film had already achieved a sense of closure and was practically wrapped up; to be told that there was more was rather jarring, especially when it was just more of the same scenes; but with higher stakes this time around.
Statham is utterly believable when he’s pounding people’s faces in and making mincemeat out of them while tied to a chair. However, in the immortal words of Hermione Granger, he has the emotional depth of a teaspoon. When he starts on how he’s giving up killing because he wants to be a better person, it’s hard to believe a single word he’s saying. In contrast, the screen practically lights up whenever De Niro’s around. Too bad he isn’t in it nearly enough. Owen was probably the only one that got the memo that this film would be painfully average. He spends his time sleepwalking through his role with a scowl etched onto his face. Funnily enough, he still conveys more emotion than Statham does.
While the oil baron, Sheikh Amr (Afif) shares the bad guy mantle with Spike, the way he’s portrayed is still rather infuriating and does nothing other than validate the stereotype that Arabs are bloodthirsty maniacs. To top it all off Sheikh Amr is a dead ringer for Bin Laden. We also have the obligatory ‘Allah’ graffiti and the call to prayer randomly playing out. In fact, the film’s portrayal of Oman is almost identical to Hollywood’s portrayal of all the other Islamic terrorist hubs be it Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.
The fight scenes should have been the film’s saving grace. However, what we get is a lot of choppy, shaky camera work. Yes, this conveys the idea that people are getting beaten up really badly but it would have been preferable to have a clear shot of it happening. Honestly, upon seeing De Niro and Owen’s names attached to the film, this reviewer was expecting a much better product. Unfortunately, Killer Elite turned out pretty average.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.