a critiQal film review Killshot (2009)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: A veteran assassin (Rourke) and his dangerous young partner (Gordon-Levitt) pursue a woman (Lane) and her husband (Jane) who stumbled upon an extortion scheme. Though the frightened couple enter the Witness Protection Program, they fear that the government is no match for two relentless killers.

574 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 52s)
  • ...Rourke's performance is outstanding as bad guy Blackbird - so good in fact, it steals all the sympathy from Diane Lane's weak heroine.

While Elmore Leonard novels usually make their quickly to the big screen once they start production (ie…Get Shorty (1995), Out of Sight, 3:10 To Yuma, etc.), it took over 2 years for Killshot to finally hit theaters – and it zipped in and out so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to check it out during it’s theatrical run.

Once I discovered it had finally landed on DVD, however, I wanted to find out if Killshot was the next in the growing line of successful Elmore Leonard adaptations, or if the reason it was in hiatus so long was because it was just that bad.

Mickey Rourke, who’s recently garnered acclaim in The Wrestler (2008) shines in his role as gun-for-hire Blackbird. He commands every scene he’s in, and the viewer will find their eyes’ continuously seeking him out. With his rather disfigured countenance, he projects an aura of a violent past even before he takes a step or opens his mouth…and when he performs even the slightest maneuver, it’s with a heavy-handedness that confirms that violent past. He’s able to be menacing and likable as the situation warrants it, and his performance is the biggest highlight of the film.

Diane Lane, who showed she can do the commanding female lead decently in Untraceable (2008), falters a bit here in this much more submissive female role. Constantly threatened by the bad guys, she spends most of the film cowering, and it’s a bit disappointing. Even when she does try to make a stand against the bad guys, viewers will more likely pity her character rather than support her.

While Thomas Jane gives a basically throwaway performance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to make a small splash in the movie biz. As he continues on his career, taking on odd characters time after time (The Lookout (2007), Brick, etc.), he’s really showcasing he’s able to play a wide variety of roles…and all to the same somewhat dubious effect. It’s not that he’s bad portraying these characters, but the viewer, over a few films, begins to get the impression they are looking at nothing more than a facade. It’s like Gordon-Levitt isn’t comfortable (or confident) enough to let the viewer in to what his character feels under the skin, leaving the viewer to walk away still entertained but somewhat disappointed.

While the whole “assassins-gonna-get-ya” plot has been done time and again, focusing on the killer is a different and refreshing twist. Unfortunately, by focusing on a killer with the talent of Mickey Rourke, this makes the viewer connect more readily with Rourke than with the “good guys”, so the viewer will most likely spend most of the film rooting for Rourke.

In fact, Rourke’s stellar performance as Blackbird is probably the biggest hindrance to Killshot. If he wasn’t so good at connecting with the viewer, the “heroes” of the film may have been able to garner more support from the audience. Instead, the viewer will side with Rourke, making Lane and Jane nothing more than secondary characters in the story, rather than the main characters they should have been.

While Killshot doesn’t rank up there with Elmore Leonard screen gems Get Shorty (1995) or it’s like, it’s definitely worth seeing for Mickey Rourke alone. True, Gordon-Levitt is fun in his sidekick role, and Rosario Dawson is undeniably likable in her small yet important role, but it’s Rourke’s film through and through, and his performance is worth the price of the rental.

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