The Killer Elite

They’re not the CIA, and if you ask them, they’ll tell you so. They take on jobs the CIA wouldn’t touch. They’re professionals who are the best at what they do, and they don’t sell Amway. They’re not listed in the phone book, and you can’t call them. Who are they? They’re the top secret organization you go to when you need the impossible done. No, not Kenneth Starr’s office.

killerelitecoverThey don’t have a name, but their best agents do: Mike Locken (James Caan) and George Hansen (Robert Duvall). Best friends who share a San Francisco residence and the same women, Locken and Hansen are the best team in the business.

Their current assignment is protecting a witness until the Feds can pick him up. Locken and Hansen were picked for this particular job because they have never lost a client. All that changes when Hansen kills the witness and gravely wounds Locken. Shot in the elbow and kneecap, Locken is immediately rushed into surgery, where his diagnosis is grim. He might be able to walk again, but not without assistance. Locken disagrees, and claims that he’ll be back in action in no time.

After all, he has a score to settle. He wants the traitorous Hansen, who has gone over to the other side. After months of rehabilitation (thanks to daily marital arts training and his lovely nurse-girlfriend Amy (The wonderful Kate Heflin), Locken is ready to go back to work, and gets the chance when he’s assigned to protect a Chinese national from assassins. When Locken learns that Hansen is heading up the hit team, he anxiously jumps back into the game. Much to the dismay of his superior Cap Collis (Arthur Hill), Locken is allowed to assemble his own team of men.

He settles on retired driver Mac (Burt Young) and crazy hit man Miller (Bo Hopkins). Their first meeting with the client is immediately marred by gunfire, forcing Locken and his entourage to flee to safer surroundings. This sets up a series of chases and shoot outs that end up in the old Mothball Fleet in Suison Bay.

What makes all of this matter is that the film, “Killer Elite,” is from director Sam Peckinpah. While not nearly as riveting or as urgent as his previous efforts (and not nearly as bad as “Convoy”), “The Killer Elite” is engaging entertainment that provides enough back story (courtesy of the Stirling Silliphant-Marc Norman screenplay) and PG-limited violence to satisfy most Peckinpah fans. The story is pretty simplistic, and some of the dialogue is passable, but the framework and potent stars allow Peckinpah to tell a story that’s fulfilling. James Caan and Robert Duvall, together again after “The Godfather,” make excellent rivals.

The fact that they were best friends adds some shading to their characters, while the actors lend conviction to every scene. Watching “The Killer Elite,” which was released in 1975 before there was a PG-13 rating, shows how much filmmaker’s were allowed to get away with within the confines of a PG rating. Peckinpah trimmed the violence in “The Killer Elite” to get the PG rating, and yet it’s still filled with violent images. Plus, there are several scenes of topless women that wouldn’t get by today’s censors without at least a PG-13. It’s amazing how times have changed. “The Killer Elite” isn’t a great film, but it is entertaining, and for action fans, engaging.


VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Generally agreeable 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that doesn’t hold on to patterns very well. Even the simplest patterns (car grills, checked shirts) seem to break up. The colors are magnificent (the flesh tones are especially flattering) and the blacks are industrial strength under the right lighting conditions. Beginning with chapter 20, a lot of the action takes place inside dark buildings, and in at least one instance, the scene became a mess. The ghosting and fading was horrendous. The transfer shows a minute amount of compression artifacts. However, for the most part, the images are sharp and vivid, with strong color saturation and no bleeding. The original print is virtually free of noticeable wear and tear, providing for a decent transfer. There are a couple of moments where a scratch is visible, but not nearly enough to be annoying.

HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Functional Dolby Digital mono soundtrack gets the job done with very little or no distortion or annoying hiss. The dialogue mix is strong and effective, but overall there isn’t much here to brag about.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English and subtitles in French.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

If you play the DVD backwards in your DVD-ROM on your computer, it unlocks an actual directory of all undercover CIA agents and their locations. Unfortunately, once you unlock this information, they come to your house and kill you and your family….Okay, so the DVD doesn’t have that feature. What it dos have is functional main and scene access menus, plus the original theatrical trailer, and am 8-page booklet with interesting facts about the movie.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

I don’t know if it’s worth taking a bullet to the kneecap and elbow to hang out with these guys, but the DVD will allow you to play rough without any of the consequences.

VITALS: $24.95/Rated PG/123 Minutes/Color/32 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#907443




HMO: MGM Home Entertainment

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