There's enough high-octane action in this gradually labored and conventional thriller (apparently no relation to the 1975 James Caan/Robert Duvall starrer under the stylish guidance of Sam Peckinpaugh).
In this Killer Elite it's nice (for a while) to see Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert DeNiro going at it in a tangled web of former agents and operatives as clandestine happenings emerge from ominous handlers.
The setting is around 1980 as tyro filmmaker Gary McKendry (who co-wrote the screenplay) draws from the fact-based book The Feather Men moving around three continents before primarily ending up in London.
Life in the black-ops was presumably a thing of the past for Danny (Statham of The Mechanic) who looks to settle Down Under (on a farm) with an alluring Anne (Yvonne Strahovski). But, crime has a way of pulling him back when former older imperturbable partner Hunter (DeNiro, pretty good in Limitless) is kidnapped by a sheik.
Hunter's existence depends on Danny's smooth "offing" of a trio of former agents responsible for the executions of three of the sheik's sons. Like Peckinpaugh's less testosterone-fueled foray, a sensible, if hasty man in Spike (Owen of The Boys are Back) is retained to block Danny and his underlings (Aden Young, Dominic Purcell) by a cunning, mysterious military society. Meanwhile, everyone is actually in the throws of a more perilous undertaking.
How the filmmaking uses the set pieces for a lively chain of events amid the elusive malfeasance is initally all right until the crazy derring-do of criminal minds gets a bit unfathomable. Some excitement arrives during a well-staged chase through desert tunnels filled with bats. But, one wonders how all of the impressionable, wanton minds and mayhem would have unfolded out if this was made by a Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, Inception)
However, with all of the shoot em', smash em' up and hand-to-hand fighting ("war isn't over until it stops") adjoining the machinations of England in the Middle East, a showy defiant disposition only goes so far. Even with the differing mannerisms of a fairly watchable DeNiro, Owen and Statham (often of the typical Steven Seagal look) as eyes are gouges and blows are dealt and felt below the belt.
With enough suspicion arising throughout, there don't appear to be as many "bad guys" as there should be. This enervating Elite goes for the killer within perhaps too soon as it seems to climax more than once with what seems like another another reel after a plausibly warmer finish. But, a thorny cat-and-mouse tale (in which the "predators become the prey") only manages to entertain by its bluntness rather than brains.