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Killshot suffers the "delayed release date" curse...

2009-01-09 10:48
Killshot poster

On paper, this should have been an absolute corker. Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, directed by Tony Scott and starring Robert de Niro, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman, Killshot looked all set to be a huge success. However, that was then, and this now: it's 2008 and many years since the project was originally mooted by mega producer Harvey Weinstein. The film is now in Oscar nominated director (Shakespeare In Love) John Madden’s hands, with a script that the late Sydney Pollack and the late Anthony Minghella both had a say in and a reworked cast that includes Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Thomas ‘The Punisher’ Jane and indie favourite Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If all those big names jumping ship didn’t have the alarm bells ringing, then the fact that the release date has been bumped five times over the last four years should have you suitably apprehensive.

I certainly was when I attended the pre-release screening, and my fears were confirmed fairly quickly. The first twenty minutes of this film serve as a perfect lesson on how not to edit a film. These opening scenes are such a garbled mess that I had very little idea what was going on and crucially had developed very little concern for the characters and their well-being. However, things did become clear as the film progressed and I was able to finally discern a general plot line. Diane Lane and Thomas Jane play an unhappily married couple who witness two robbers’ attempted robbery from a real estate company and who are subsequently placed in the witness protection program. Mickey Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the criminals, intent on finding and killing the witnesses. It’s a fairly simple set-up, but there's a sense that there must have been a great deal more character development in Leonard’s novel. Also missing is Leonard’s characteristically hard-boiled dialogue and dry humour. What we are left with is a very bland plot, not helped by John Madden’s by-the-numbers direction and some phoned-in performances from the leads. I never thought I’d say it, but this one really could have used some of Tony Scott’s juiced up hyperactive direction.

Diane Lane looks tired and bored and Mickey Rourke spends most of the film hiding behind his sunglasses - this performance will do very little for the Oscar buzz surrounding his other new film, The Wrestler. The only shining light in this decidedly average flick is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This guy is a real chameleon and he is surely one of the finest actors of his generation. He is clearly reveling in his role as a brash, impulsive, inexperienced and generally highly irritating criminal - a far cry from the shy, introverted high-schooler he played in Brick. His character was so annoying and he was so utterly convincing in the role that I genuinely wanted him to snuff it by the end of the film. I can’t say I was too concerned about any of the other characters’ fates - it says something about the quality of the film when only the supporting bad guy can generate any sort of response from the viewer.

Having said all that, Killshot is not a terrible film. Goodness knows there are far worse offenders out there (here’s looking at you Disaster Movie). Barring the virtually incomprehensible first twenty minutes, Killshot goes about its business in an orderly fashion, ticking all the requisite genre boxes, occasionally providing us with a tense moment or a pretty location. Every now and then (and generally when Gordon-Levitt is on screen) Leonard’s influence can be felt, but these moments are far too rare. This one’s a Sunday afternoon rental at best.  


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