A few weeks ago I went to a screening of Killer Elite. I went in expecting to see a Clive Owen movie with Jason Statham in it. But really, it was a Jason Statham movie with Clive Owen in it. That’s pretty much the best way to describe it. Less Inside Man and Children of Men. More Transporter 3 and Crank 2.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Jason Statham movies. You know how they go. Statham always looks a little worried, but deep down he knows, and you do too, that he can pretty much kick anyone’s ass in any situation. Statham dreams of a normal life with peace and quiet and a decent relationship, but you both know that won’t work out for the guy. He’s just too damn good at kicking ass, so he has to stick with the job.

There’s some quality action in this movie. The Clive Owen vs. Jason Statham brawl in the hospital is pretty intense. You got some sweet car chases, a couple crazy shootouts and entertaining death scenes. If you isolate the action, it’s hard to complain about this film. It delivers on pacing, on elaborate assassination plots and the whole cat and mouse chase thing. All that stuff works really well.

But then you get into the actual characters. Now this is supposed to be based on true-ish events, so the opportunity was there to build out these characters into interesting, layered people. That didn’t happen though.

Yvonne Strahovski is a prop in this movie. She plays Statham’s love interest and spends most of the film aimlessly walking around Paris. At the end of the movie, you know nothing about her; why she’s around in the first place, what she’s into, what she doesn’t like. I’m pretty sure if you paid me 50 bucks at the end of the movie to tell you her character’s name, there’s no way I could have done it.

Same goes with De Niro. He plays this father figure/super-assassin type, but really, he comes across as a tired old man doing a not-so-great impression of Robert De Niro. He just doesn’t have it anymore. I realize that we can’t expect a Heat-type performance here. I really wasn’t setting the bar too high. But De Niro just comes across a sad, fatigued, campier version of himself. Homey needs a vacation or he needs to get more selective with his roles.

Even amidst this Statham-driven world of super-action and underdeveloped characters, Clive Owen still shines. I’m totally biased here – I love the guy – but he was the best part of the film. If the lead role went to Owen, it’d be a totally different movie. He gets plenty of face time (even with that porn stache), and he makes the most out of it.

To enjoy this film, you just have to know what you’re walking into. It’s not a layered story about political intrigue, deep characters and interwoven agendas. It’s a Statham movie where villainous henchman run around saying stuff like “Remember, the only rules are, there are no rules.” (Seriously, that happened).

If you suspend your critical judgment, need for character development and just go into it looking for some action – real, elaborate, well-paced assassin/cat-and-mouse action – then you can just sit back and have fun with a not-so-serious movie.

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