The Killer Elite is an interesting little film from the 1970s, long forgotten in the midst of far better films like The Godfather, The Conversation and The French Connection and there’s a good reason: this never hit the full potential when you get the likes of James Caan and Robert Duvall together.
The Killer Elite
Genre(s): Crime, Suspense/Thriller, Drama
Twilight Time | PG – 123 min. – $29.95 | September 9, 2014
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Plot Summary: Mike Locken (JAMES CAAN) is a contract killer, or protector depending on the job, working for a shady organization that has their hands in all sorts of things including taking contracts from the CIA. While on assignment, Locken is “retired” (i.e. shot but not killed) by his friend and partner, George Hansen (ROBERT DUVALL) with his injuries taking over a year to heal and even then, his mobility is limited.
While Hansen has disappeared, the organization seems to have no use for him before they get an assignment vie way of the CIA to protect Yuen Chung (MAKO) and get him on a boat back to his homeland in order to rile up support for change and democracy. In order to accomplish this, Locken assembles two other members to help: weapons expert and sharp shooter Jerome Miller (BO HOPKINS) and cabbie/master driver Mac (BURT YOUNG). Meanwhile, there are those who would like to prevent this… including the very organization hiring Locken, getting paid on both ends. Out to kill Chung is, of course, Hansen.
Quick Hit Review: Directed by Sam Peckinpah, best known for helming such films as The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, The Killer Elite was a movie I looked forward to finally checking out as my repertoire of 1970s is limited to the obvious (Godfather 1 & 2, French Connection, The Conversation, etc.) and seeing screen greats James Caan and Robert Duvall together again following The Godfather. However, the build-up never quite met expectations, unfortunately.
While Peckinpah does a good job with some of the more personal touches, in particular Caan’s recovery and developing relationship with his nurse, the main plot involving espionage and conspiracy was not only severely lacking but almost amateurish in its direction and this is not to mention the odd inclusion of ninjas which absolutely did not live up to its own expectations with fight chorography seemingly taken from 1960s and 1970s television.
In end, The Killer Elite never quite hit its potential especially with two powerhouse actors in Caan and Duvall (in actuality, they only are on-screen together for maybe 20-minutes and Duvall’s role is more or less a cameo) but still it’s relatively entertaining just not worthy of a full-on recommendation.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
Inside the case is a 6-page essay booklet.
Audio Commentary – The track features Film Historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and Twilight Time regular Nick Redman. As with other commentaries on TT releases, this one is fairly low key and focused on background of the movie and although not astoundingly fascinating, the trio are enjoyable enough and fill the time fairly well.
Passion & Poetry: Sam’s Killer Elite (27:45) is an older featurette with newer interviews with the cast and crew as well as some behind-the-scenes footage.
Promoting The Killer Elite (4:15) is a gallery of poster artwork.
Noon Vine (51:18) is a bonus (short) film included and has its own commentary track with Seydor, Simmons and Redman.
Rounding things out is the Theatrical Trailer (2:12) and TV and Radio Spots (5:10).
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Arriving on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time, The Killer Elite is presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. I actually was pleasantly surprised by the transfer with sharp and clear detail levels throughout and although colors tended to be a bit muted, the darker scenes are decently stark and outside of a scene or two, didn’t show overwhelming graininess.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The movie comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which isn’t bad with some good depth and dialogue sounds crisp and clear while some of the audio effects aren’t bad especially given it’s centralized to a single channel. I’m not going to say it’s anything amazing but considering the source, it’s a solid track on the whole.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, The Killer Elite is an interesting little film from the 1970s, long forgotten in the midst of far better films like The Godfather, The Conversation and The French Connection and there’s a good reason: this never hit the full potential when you get the likes of James Caan and Robert Duvall together. Although the opening was great everything beyond just didn’t pick up momentum and by the (lackluster) third act, I found myself more disappointed than anything else. As far as the Blu-ray is concerned, both the video and audio transfers are well done and there’s a fair number of bonus material included.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.