Release Date: January 23rd, 2009 MPAA Rating: R
Director: John Madden Actors: Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke, Thomas Jane, Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
ased on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, “Killshot” suffers from a lack of focus, direction, and creativity – all elements that the original story likely possessed. Negative test screenings forced severe edits, including the complete excising of a role, resulting in a film that feels almost nothing like a Leonard piece. Far too many characters populate a storyline too simplistic and straightforward (not a typical trait of the author’s work), while attention continually switches between two hitmen who are difficult to like and a troubled couple who don’t command sympathy. The premise itself provides precious few twists and turns, so that by the end of the film, its cinematic qualities still remain a mystery.
Washed-up mercenary Armand “The Blackbird” Degas (Mickey Rourke) follows a strict code during his missions that inadvertently sours his latest assignment. Now on the run from his former employer, he haphazardly joins forces with inept misfit criminal Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to gain some quick cash through extorting a wealthy realtor. When struggling couple Carmen and Wayne Colson (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) are privy to the thieves’ blundered plot, they are forced into hiding as the crazed killers stop at nothing to silence the two witnesses.
“Killshot” proves that being based on an Elmore Leonard novel isn’t grounds for immediate success – or even a promising adaptation. The characters, situations, and even resolutions in the film are all tired and unoriginal and only very randomly hint at something more. It’s not that there wasn’t potential, especially when Rourke’s black-garbed, calm, and collected assassin perfectly executes a hit during the opening scene – purpose and principals are just continually abandoned as each minute ticks away. The style and manner in which each character is introduced is the most intriguing; visually, the roles of Blackbird and even Wayne are fleshed out befittingly, giving immediate interest and depth to personas that typically end in a creative impasse.
The pairing of the cold and calculating Blackbird with the irrational and explosive Richie is an enticing combination (comparisons to “Fargo” would be acknowledgeable but extravagantly too kind), except that each character seems to slowly lose track of the traits that kept them initially interesting. As Richie starts picking up the more experienced killer’s habits, Blackbird loosens his grip on his own methods of murder. Regardless of what he sees in his momentary lighthearted fling with Donna (Rosario Dawson), it’s hard to imagine that his final confrontation with panicky Carmen would provoke a confession of his true nature and subsequent carelessness that drastically affects his outcome. Likely or not, this is “Killshot’s” unfortunate downfall – and little entertainment can be garnered from these characters as they steadily lose their originality by regularly contradicting the habits that once made them provocative.
– The Massie Twins