Killshot Review

Stirred up by his admittedly impressive performance in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke has been enjoying a deserved career revival, rising up from the pits of direct-to-video refuse to take his rightful place as a noteworthy, if not iconic actor.  John Madden’s troubled Killshot does Rourke no favors, an Elmore Leonard adaptation edited down to a generic thriller with few redeeming elements, among them Rourke’s performance, which is solid enough to satisfy fans but not to keep the film afloat.

Armand 'The Blackbird' Degas (Mickey Rourke) is a hired killer with a price on his head over a botched assassination. As he hides out, shuffling from place to place aimlessly pondering giving up the assassin life, he is confronted by Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hair-trigger adolescent Max Cady. Nix plans to intimidate a real estate agent out of $20,000 and Degas (or Bird, as he prefers to be called) takes him under his wing, seeing something in Nix that reminds Bird of his dead kid brother.

Through pure chance, Wayne Colson (Thomas Jane) walks into the same real estate agency looking for a job on the day that Nix and Bird decide to make a go for it. Wayne is the husband of Carmen Colson (Diane Lane), who works at the same agency. Naturally, things go awry, Nix mistakes Wayne for the agent and a brief firefight breaks out. At the end, everyone’s alive, but Nix is bleeding badly and the two criminals hightail it out of the parking lot and go on the lam, hiding out with Nix’s girl Donna (Rosario Dawson, doing what she can with the thinnest performance in the film). The Colsons in turn go underground as potential witnesses and must keep a low profile as Bird and Nix come out of hiding to hunt the couple.

While I haven’t read Elmore Leonard’s novel, it’s difficult to believe it was either this labyrinthine or this simplistic. The film feels like a neutered version of a much more developed story, maintaining only the most basic motivations for its characters. This hurts just about every performance except Rourke’s; with no readily available background, Bird is a stranger with clear goals in mind, solidified by the full-bodied world-weariness Rourke brings to the role. Gordon-Levitt, country drawl and all, is especially stymied, reduced to a preening hillbilly with no self-control. He darts, screams and climbs walls in a fit of impressive acting; if only we didn't see him in such a limited context. Jane and Lane have no real chemistry together so establishing them as an estranged couple works; but when they begin to have feelings for each other, their interactions ring false enough to work up a cheese factor.

They don’t really have time to get together though, as the plot rushes headlong from scene to scene, barely giving us time to get to know anyone. Although the focus is on Bird and Nix pursuing the Colsons, the chase and the encounters that follow feel out-of-breath, almost like separate segments unevenly put together with no unifying tempo. Since you haven’t spent enough time with most of the characters, you don’t have any investment in their survival, particularly the Colsons, who come off more plain vanilla than spouses under siege should. Rourke’s personal emotional baggage no doubt aids our understanding of his character but Gordon-Levitt and especially Dawson falter with every new scene.

This is a film that makes me want to see a director’s cut, a longer, more fleshed piece of work, not only because of Rourke and Levitt’s performances but also because the film is technically proficient. Pro cinematographer Caleb Deschanel pleasingly lenses locales and Klaus Badelt’s score gives a much-needed boost to some flat scenes. Overall, Killshot comes barely recommended as a late-night thriller flick, but only if no Seagal movies are on.

DVD Bonus Features

Unless you count the trailers that appear before the menu, there are no extras included on the DVD.

"Killshot" is on sale May 26, 2009 and is rated R. Action, Crime-Thriller, Thriller. Directed by John Madden. Written by Hossein Amini. Starring Diane Lane, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Mickey Rourke, Thomas Jane.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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