Killshot should have had its day in court theatrically. It was a property that had been in the works for many years dating back to the mid-90s with the Weinsteins and nearly being made with a very intriguing pairing of De Niro in what is now Mickey Rourke's part of Blackbird and Quentin Tarantino in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's part of Richie Nix. And now, several years later, it comes to us direct to DVD (if it had a theatrical release I certainly missed it somehow),and considering its presentation as such, without any special features (out of shame or just not being able to get anyone for comment?) it's not that bad. At least, not as bad as one might expect, that it would be another total bastardization of a classic Elmore Leonard novel filled with talky tough guys and flawed good guys and one of those plots that's more about character than story. Well, at least not entirely.
Its story is simple: hired killer with a bad rep, Blackbird, is seen by a guy (Thomas Jane) and his ex (Diane Lane) at a real estate office, and he and his not-really partner/mentee low-life Richie Nix need to go after them, because, as the line goes "she's seen my face." There's witness protection program moving, and eventually the killers follow up on their targets, yada yada. The story seems fine, on paper. But there's something curious to it not being super suspenseful or engaging all the time (though there are some exceptions, which I'll get to in a moment),and I think it's due to John Madden's direction. It's slick but impersonal, without a whole lot of urgency and in a few scenes seemingly phoned-in. He's a director who's made a name with romance dramas sometimes successful (Shakespeare) and not (Corelli's Mandolin) and he doesn't feel at home directing something that should have been in more capable genre-director hands. Indeed, and I can't believe I'm writing this, the original choice, Tony Scott, would have been a more ideal candidate.
So if the script is only marginally strong, depending on when or when not it seems to take its cues (if not actually take from the source) of the Leonard novel (certain scenes like the Elvis dialog, or the joke about Nix "not like Stevie Nicks, have that Leonard feel, while the characters Lane and Jane play are barely two-dimensional),and the direction only competent, why the partial recommendation? Because, for the most part, the casting works. Mickey Rourke could have potentially sleep-walked through the part, but there is something of a good performance kicking around, and some scenes, like his last scene of dialog with Carmen is compelling and the method he employs (one can see Rourke sticking around Indian reservations for months for such a thankless film) work its stuff. Lane is also very good as the scared but strong Carmen, while Jane is... yeah, it's Thomas Jane, not so great.
But the real keeper here is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This is an actor who has worked since he was young (I remember him as early as the Angels in the Outfield remake),and he's gotten better to the point that his name carries some weight. In Killshot we see him dig into what could be a conventional sociopath-maniac and give him life, moments that connect, like that very Leonard scene where he gives Carmen's mother a back-rub while in her house getting possible info. He, like Rourke, understand what potential there is in the material and seizes upon it. If the filmmakers were on the same page with (some) of the cast, it would be very memorable. Instead, it's something that one can feel a little bad for not making it just limited theatrically, but not that it may be forgotten in time like some other Leonard adaptations.
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
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When the professional killer Armand 'Blackbird' Degas falls in disgrace with the Mafia, he flees to another city in Canada. He stumbles upon the psychopath Richie Nix, who lives with his girlfriend Donna. Armand teams up with him and moves to his house. Richie summons Armand to participate in a scheme to take money from a wealthy real estate agent, but he commits a mistake and the couple Wayne Colson and Carmen Colson witness their action. They are forced to join the Witness Protection Program by the FBI and they move to another town. But Armand and Ritchie are hunting them down since they are a threat.
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