Wholly unrelated to the 1975 Sam Peckinpah film of the same name, Killer Elite is distinguished by one no-mercy, eye-gouging, testicle-punching brawl, and one whoppingly indifferent screenplay. After a collateral-damage close call awakens his conscience—the first of many perfunctorily recycled bits to come—hitman Danny Bryce (Jason Statham) retires only to be drawn back into business when his ex-partner (Robert De Niro) is kidnapped by a sheikh. To ransom his friend, Danny has to kill members of the British SAS Special Forces who offed the sheikh's sons during the Dhofar Rebellion. As Danny tallies his kills, he's tailed by SAS vet Spike (Clive Owen); both are duty-bound warriors, well-matched to pummel each another in crisp and brutal dustups that make good use of Statham's human-bowling-ball physicality. Rather than these men—code-following samurai—the villains of Killer Elite are the corrupt boardroom shot-callers who pit them against one another, suits who say things like "We don't want blood on our pinstripes." Or is the real villain screenwriter Matt Sherring, also responsible for "Killing is easy—living with it's the hard part," and "Shit happens when you play in the deep end of the pool"?
Opens at Lincoln Square and other theaters. Rated R, 116 minutes.