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The Killer Elite


Director Sam Peckinpah is undeniably one of the most influential directors of the sixties and seventies. With films like "The Wild Bunch", "Straw Dogs" and my personal favorite of his films, 1973's "The Getaway", he infused crime dramas with a laid back style punctuated by explosive, graphic violence.

In 1975, he brought us THE KILLER ELITE. James Caan stars as Mike Locken, an agent for a murky private mercenary agency tied to the CIA that does the work the CIA can't talk about.

Robert Duvall is his close friend and partner, George Hansen. Early in the film, a major double cross puts the two friends on opposite sides, with Mike badly wounded and facing several years of rehab.

Even after that time, the agency pushes him aside until an Asian crime syndicate arrives in San Francisco determined to take out a major client of the agency.

Suddenly, agency heads Weyburn (Gig Young) and Cap (Arthur Hill) want Mike back in the field to go after the syndicate, and their new partner in the project, Hansen.

Caan does a great job conveying a man eager to prove what he can still do and faced with the opportunity to gain revenge against his former partner.

Bo Hopkins and Burt Young are great adds as members of Caan's new team and Mako brings great presence as the prized Asian client caught in the middle of ever changing allegiances.

Duvall and Caan are both very good, but Peckinpah seems determined to move everything at a glacier like pace for most of the film.

Karate and Judo fights and rooftop sniper battles aside, there are long stretches of the film that scream for editing.

It's still interesting though, with plenty of Peckinpah visual flourishes throughout. The twenty minute sequence two thirds of the way through the film in which Mike and his team move in to protect and move Chung (Mako) to another location is excellent and the conclusion at the docks is well staged.

At the end of the day, this isn't one of Peckinpah's elite achievements. We'll shoot it a C.

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