The Killer Elite

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In the decade of the seventies while younger filmmakers were showing a new voice in Hollywood, there was one maverick filmmaker that took a unique approach to making a movie. He would turn off executives and producers with his unorthodox way of filming and his thirst for films that would raise the bar for violence. In the circles they nicknamed him Bloody Sam. He was Sam Peckinpah and he had a habit of having an alternate view of a genre by taking what were below average novels and turning them into films that would be assuredly better than the book through his eyes. In this case he would take an action government film using two of the hottest leads of that day and tell a tale of betrayal, revenge, and action all within a secure group known as The Killer Elite.

Some sticks of dynamite, a ticking clock and BOOM! A narrow escape of a bunch led by Mike Locken (James Caan) and George Hansen (Robert Duvall) take care of business in this secret organization that deny any government involvement but has it’s own set of ties. They’re roommates, they’re friends but that all changes one day when Hansen knocks off the package set for delivery as well as taking Mike out of commission. With his connections to some outsiders including a gun friendly dude (Bo Hopkins) and a friend from the past (Burt Young), they’re all ready to track George down while he’s talking business with enemies of his own country.

The Killer Elite is a goverment thriller that has the look of a conventional actioners but have their own irreverent Peckinpah touches that in moments look as if the film will take a gritty turn but instead never seems to leap over the conventions. There are some moments of action, and the film moves well but the last third looks as if it will go somewhere beyond the events that have preceded it and it comes to a screeching halt and puzzles the viewer as to why it didn’t go further. The acting is solid from all with Caan and Duvall playing it routine and Bo Hopkins, one of the always reliable character actors, resembling Owen Wilson with glasses bringing an interesting look to a laconic killer. Any film that can have a party with Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” cranking up in the background is worth a look, cheesy 70s organ and all, but that comes early.

One other thing worth noting is that this is one of Peckinpah’s few films rated PG. His effort is good, routine and entertaining. Towards the end, however, even when other Peckinpah films have shot off into a different direction towards its climax, this one comes off as a good movie that had the potential to be a great movie.

Video: How does it look?

The Killer Elite is another Peckinpah vision shot in Panavision and in the 2.35:1 non-anamorphic transfer, the print holds up well but not without some shares of specks and debris. It doesn’t last for long and come in spurts but the finished product turns out to be a clear print that holds up a little better than most seventies movie but has it’s share of print flaws throughout.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Killer Elite boasts an English mono track and overall it’s not bad and there are obvious limitations to a seventies track but in the end, it works satisfactorily with a muteness and most of the activity through the middle that doesn’t hurt the movie or a second-rate home theater system. Most of the action and the sound effects and score are fine throughout but ,like the feature, doesn’t go beyond the conventional routes. This disc also has English and French subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Besides the original Transamerica-UA logo at the beginning of the movie that is an extra in itself, there is the film’s theatrical trailer and an 8 page booklet in the case.

The Killer Elite has the potential to be a killer movie but in the end turns out to be intriguing but standard fare and a nice attempt by Sam Peckinpah to bring irreverency to a PG rated film and that attempt results in a decent DVD.

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