DVD reviews: Killer Elite | The Guard

REGULAR readers of The Scotsman’s film pages may have noticed my frequent tributes to the genius of Jason Statham.

He’s modern cinema’s greatest action star: an enigmatic, no-nonsense B-movie hero – like Charles Bronson, but bald, and handier with his fists. Even in terrible movies he’s still pretty ace. Indeed, the only mistake producers seem to make is occasionally slotting him into ensemble tough-guy dramas when he’s always better as the star of the show. That’s part of the problem with Killer Elite, a loosely-based-on-fact 1980s-set SAS thriller in which The Stath generously cedes some of the limelight to those acting upstarts Robert De Niro and Clive Owen. Statham plays Danny, an ex-SAS officer whose mentor (De Niro) is being held captive by an Omani sheik who wants Danny to carry out multiple, accidental-looking hits on the SAS officers responsible for murdering his son. Owen is his opposite number: an employee of The Feathermen, a shadowy organisation responsible for protecting ex-SAS members from retaliation. It’s a decent enough premise for an action thriller, but it only really comes alive when Statham gets to crack heads in inventively proficient ways.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

KILLER Elite’s unashamedly retro mix of action and Cold War drama is, however, much better than The Guard, which presents itself as a subversive take on movie conventions, but is really just a lazy recycling of cinematic clichés and recent trends. Part corrupt cop movie, part mismatched buddy flick, part crime caper, it stars Brendon Gleeson as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a loveable reprobate whose insouciant attitude towards drugs, crime and police work in the West of Ireland district of Connemara belies an instinctive talent for getting a dirty job done. He’s at the centre of a shaggy dog story involving an international shipment of drugs, a plot conceit designed to partner Boyle with an African-American FBI agent called Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) purely so the film can score some easy laughs by having Boyle say the kinds of things political correctness has supposedly made unsayable. Writer/director Michael McDonagh – brother of In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh – also has an annoying tendency of concluding dramatic scenes with glib punchlines in order to raise outraged laughs, none of which is deserved.

• To order these DVDs, call The Scotsman on 01634 832789