Men shoot other men for nearly two hours in Killer Elite under the guise of telling a true (if unconfirmed) story of 1980s-era British covert ops involving dirty oil deals. This coldly violent, overlong cat-and-mouse game requires the principals to declaim their various reasons for offing one another, lest we lose track for lack of caring.
The lead-heavy dialogue reflects the movie's general lack of finesse. ''I'm done with killing,'' says Danny (Jason Statham), a world-weary mercenary with world-class stubble. ''But maybe killing ain't done with you,'' says a shadowy agent (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who lures Danny out of retirement, using the imprisonment of Danny's grizzled mentor (Robert De Niro) as bait. ''You can't run from what you are,'' says Spike (Clive Owen), the ex-British Special Air Service (SAS) soldier trying to take out Danny before Danny takes out other rogue SAS types. ''That's not what I am, that's what I have done,'' says Danny, who also expounds, ''Killing is easy; living with it's the hard part.''
In fact, killing looks ridiculously easy in this dispensable exploitation pic, directed for maximum impact of head-cracking pain by ad-trained Irish director Gary McKendry in his first feature. The glossy topcoat provided by the paycheck participation of De Niro and Owen can't cover up the essential emptiness of the project. D