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Film / Killer Elite

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Killer Elite is an action-thriller film released in 2011 starring Jason Statham and Clive Owen, and follows a professional hitman as he attempts to undertake a highly sensitive assassination mission to save his partner and mentor.

Set in 1980, the film follows Danny Bryce (Statham), a hitman who left the profession after having a crisis of conscience during a mission. A year later, Danny is approached by a mysterious contact named The Agent and is told that his mentor and former associate, Hunter (Robert De Niro), has been captured for failing to complete an assassination mission. Hunter will be executed if Danny doesn't complete the job. Danny meets with an Arabian sheikh who forces him to assassinate three former British SAS agents that killed his three eldest sons during an operation in Oman, and enlists the help of fellow assassins Davies (Dominic Purcell) and Meier (Aden Young). The three men work together to complete the assassinations, although several problems arise along the way. At the same time, The Feathermen, a secret group of former Special Air Service (SAS) operatives, assigns their head enforcer Spike Logan (Owen) to investigate the assassinations.

Logan attempts to stop Danny and his crew by any means necessary, while both of them find out they're both being played by several other people at the highest levels of power.

The film was adapted from a best-selling book, The Feather Men, which was released in 1991 and was supposedly based on real-life events concerning a secret society of retired SAS members whose job it was to protect other SAS members and avenge them if necessary.

Not to be confused with the 1975 Sam Peckinpah spy thriller The Killer Elite.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The film alters and streamlines many elements from the source material, including the identity and purpose of the assassination squad (called "the Clinic") and author Ranulph Fiennes' more prominent role in the book.
  • All for Nothing: Lampshaded at the end, when it's pointed out that Sheikh Amr's playboy son has no interest in returning to his native country anyway.
  • The Alleged Expert: Downplayed — Hunter is highly skilled, but is unable to pull off the assassination because he's old.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Sheikh Amr, to a T. Notably, the British government is overlooking the assassinations he had carried out because he has access to big oil contracts in the neighbouring region.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The movie opens by announcing it is a time of chaos — a world recovering from an economic crisis, war, revolution and covert operations everywhere...sounds familiar, right? Actually it's the year 1980.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The $6 million payout that Danny and Hunter (and, eventually, Logan) receive for the assassinations. The briefcase in question isn't half-full and the money appears to have been thrown in haphazardly, indicating that there's not nearly the amount of money the Sheik promised to them.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Or, more accurately, lack of skills. Before their third assassination mission, Danny's team recruits Jake, a young man who is noted to have next to no experience firing weapons or killing discreetly. After the assassination is carried out, the team fights with Logan's men at the docks, and Jake accidentally kills Meier by shooting his weapon through the target.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Danny and Anne knew each other from childhood, and end up finally settling down at the end of the film once he finishes the job.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Subverted and played straight. Hunter has been captured by the Sheik for failing to complete his assassination mission, but he will not be killed unless Danny doesn't complete the job. Later on, Logan learns that the British government has been pressuring the Feathermen to stop him from investigating the case because they're influencing the Sheik's oil reserves, and the government attempts to kill both Logan and Danny at a warehouse.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The sheik was exiled from his country because he refused to carry on the tradition of vengeance for his third son's death, and must do so if his fourth son is to return to his country. Logan wants revenge on Danny for killing his friends, and while Danny gives him a chance to walk away, the end is ambiguous as to whether Logan will do so.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Although Danny is a hitman, he will not hurt civilians or children.
  • Faking the Dead: Danny shoots the fourth target, Ranulph Fiennes, in the leg and takes photographs to trick the Sheik into believing he died. Subverted in that Logan (who delivers the photos to the Sheik) immediately tells him the photos are fake just before he stabs him.
  • Fanservice: Subverted. The hooker having sex with Davies barely has time to get her bra strap down before she gets pulled off by one of Logan's associates. Likewise, Yvonne Strahovski is conservatively dressed through the entire film - the closest she gets to anything suggestive is wearing a negligee during a conversation with Danny.
  • Groin Attack: Danny does this to disable Logan during their fight at the hospital.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Danny shoots through a loaf of bread, but is given away moments later when Hunter has to shoot to protect him from a mook who's not quite dead.
  • I Have Your Friend / Break-In Threat: Danny is sent a photo of a captured Hunter to make him come out of retirement. Later the Agent suggests that they have Danny's girlfriend, causing him to rush to her bed only to find she's asleep and unharmed. Then he finds a cartridge case tucked into her hair.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: When Hunter shoots the Agent that was about to kidnap Anne at the Paris subway station, he fires a bullet that passes through three separate objects (including a messenger bag and a newspaper) before it hits his leg.
  • Karma Houdini: The Feathermen escape karmic justice for betraying Logan and sweeping the assassinations under the rug by the film's end, and it's implied Logan will have to change his identity to keep them from coming after him.
  • Look Both Ways: Davies death; he's standing in the middle of the road trying to flag down a car to escape from the Feathermen, only to be hit by a truck.
  • Magic Bullets: Averted by Meier's death.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Danny's team use this method to dispose of all three of their targets at the Sheik's request, via a head injury caused by a bathroom accident, hypothermia and a car accident. The only problem is that the Sheik insists on tape-recorded 'confessions' from the targets to prove that he's taken revenge.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Danny.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Between Danny, Spike and the British Government Mook as they fight over the gun and the photographs of Fiennes' "death"
  • Motive Rant: The British government spook who holds Danny and Logan at gunpoint proceeds to tell them all about his plans to ensure that the government receives the oil contracts from the Sheik, just before he tries to kill Danny.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: The spook insists he's a patriot.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Danny, when he learns that the first SAS target the group killed was an innocent man who was bluffing when they asked him if he was involved with the death of the sheikh's sons.
  • No Name Given: The Agent, the man who gives Danny and the rest of his crew the names and locations of their assassination targets.
  • Noodle Incident:
    Meier: The Boston Brake. Perfect.
    Davies: It wasn't perfect in Boston.
    Meier: That's because I wasn't at the controls in Boston.
  • Nothing Personal: The Agent says this to Hunter while attempting to justify why he attempted to kidnap Anne.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Danny says that he and Logan are much alike, in that they were both being used by higher powers and were both given a job to take out three targets.
  • One-Hit Polykill: What occurs when Jake accidentally shoots Meier.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The U.K.-born, Australia-raised Purcell plays a Welshman, but his accent constantly lapses into a voice that sounds Australian. Logan noted he didn't sound Welsh and that made him a prime suspect.
  • Professional Killer: Almost every character of importance is either SAS, ex-SAS or a hitman.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    Spike: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
  • Retired Badass: Danny left the Professional Killer business after a job that made him re-evaluate what he was doing (although he comes back to the business for One Last Job when the film begins proper), while Hunter says midway through the film that he's out of the business for good - not that it diminishes his skills any, as seen when he saves Anne at the Paris subway station.
    • Some of the targets as well, plus the council running the Feathermen.
  • Super Window Jump: Danny leaps out of a window (while tied to a chair) in order to escape Danny near the end of the film. This isn't the first time he's done such a thing.
  • Tempting Fate: Danny holds up Logan in his house after Davies' death, and tells him at the end of their conversation not to follow him. He tries to trick Logan the next time they meet (when he fakes Fiennes' death), but he doesn't realize that Logan brought in a team of ex-SAS friends to draw him out.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Well, based on a fictionalized version of a true story... or a completely fictional story.
  • Vigilante Man: Logan becomes this, once he realizes he's been screwed over by the British government. He takes matters into his own hands, and locates and kills the Sheik before stealing the payment Danny and Hunter were planning to collect.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: New team member Jake after Meier's death at the shipping yard. Played With; although we see him vomiting, the shot is just distant enough to avoid too much detail.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Logan captures Danny and takes him to a warehouse, where he plans to interrogate him. A British government agent shows up and tries to kill both of them to keep his activities safe, but the whole thing spirals into a three-way fight just before Danny escapes.
  • With My Hands Tied: Danny disables both Logan and the government spook with his hands tied behind his back, and later jumps out a window (while still tied to the chair) to prevent Logan from shooting him.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Logan when Danny asks him to call it even and not come after him.