In the bloody aftermath of a botched hit on a Mexican street, the ace assassin played by ace action star Jason Statham decides he's had enough. "I'm done with killing," Danny mumbles, Stathamesquely.
"Yeah, well, maybe killing ain't done with you," says his partner and mentor, a guy named Hunter, and a guy who looks an awful lot like Robert De Niro, squinting, stubbly, acting tough.
And so goes the ricochet of clichés in Killer Elite, a slam-bam shoot-'em-up inspired by a true story in which Statham must come out of retirement to save his old pal. Danny has sequestered himself on a sprawling farm in the Australian outback, in the company of a fetching Australian outbacker (Yvonne Strahovki). But when he hears that Hunter is being held hostage by an Omani sheikh, Danny has no choice but to go into business again.
The sheikh is hungry for revenge: There are three Brits, part of a disbanded special forces squad, who were responsible for the deaths of three of his sons. Unless Danny delivers proof of the perpetrators' demise, his buddy Hunter is a goner.
Based on fictionalized accounts of real-life SAS operative Sir Ranulph Fiennes - and bearing no relation to the 1975 Sam Peckinpah movie of the same name - Killer Elite delivers plenty of action as Statham pursues his prey and Clive Owen, playing an ex-SAS operative by the name of Spike, pursues him.
Wearing a goofy mustache (excuse: Killer Elite is set in the '80s) and pushing the macho quotient into the danger zone, Owen looks particularly uncomfortable barking orders to his sidekicks and bearing down on his nemesis. The actor is better suited to roles that call for surface calm, a soft voice; let the anger and angst well up in his eyes. Here, he just looks silly.
Statham, on the other hand, can do this stuff in his sleep - even if he's required to propel himself backward through a second-story window, still strapped to a chair.
Loaded with careening car chases and rooftop runs, glass-shattering shootouts and exploding fireballs, Killer Elite offers more than enough to keep action junkies happy.
But if you want some meaning with your mayhem, or even a good line of dialogue or two, look elsewhere.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.