Monday, March 31, 2014

THE KILLER ELITE (1975) - Sam Peckinpah

No, you're not having a Fu-bruary flashback. That is indeed James Caan battling a ninja on a boat with a cane in the shot above. Just ignore it. Director Sam Peckinpah certainly does. He cuts the big climactic fight scene in The Killer Elite as a laughable afterthought, something to get out of the way so he can get down to real business...from what I've read, a craft service table of filled with whiskey and cocaine.

The whole movie plays like an afterthought though, a potentially good film that fell through the cracks. Caan teamed with Peckinpah is a promising tease, but Caan doesn't have much to work with and Peckinpah doesn't supply much in the way of a script. Supposedly, Peckinpah wanted to take the boilerplate CIA story and use it as a vehicle to satirize the action movie conventions of the day. But producers wanted more straight-ahead fare and, as was customary with Bloody Sam, they clashed. I remembered that clash as being more entertaining; I was wrong. It's just a half-assed mess.

Caan isn't bedridden, as in several of his other movies, but he does waste a good half-hour of the flick recuperating from a gunshot wound. He has a half-assed romance with a nurse in the hospital, then assembles a half-assed team once he gets out to protect an Asian asset (Mako) but really to get revenge on his old partner, Robert Duvall. There's Burt Young as a driver, Bo Hopkins as the weapons/demolitions expert. Even those guys can't do much to spice things. The only scene that stands out is the one I remembered from my first viewing years ago. Caan and Duvall are hungover after going to a party the night before with man ladies, lots of booze. Duvall tells Caan that he found a doctor's note in the purse of the woman Caan just slept with, something to do with "vaginal disease." As Duvall laughs his ass off, Caan shrieks behind the wheel: "Why didn't you stop me? Why didn't you say something?" What's worse than shooting your black ops partner in the back? In a Peckinpah movie, it's not informing him he's about to get an STD.

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