Is it me who haven't been paying attention in the past or is 2009 a banner year for high-profile straight-to-DVD films? How exactly is a movie that's 1) adapted from an Elmore Leonard
novel, 2) directed by the Oscar-winning John Madden
("Shakespeare in Love") and 3) starring Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Thomas Jane, Rosario Dawson
and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
undeserving of a wide release in theatres? Of course, once you learn that it also happens to be produced by The Weinstein Company, that explains quite a bit (they're also the ones who fucked over "Outlander", amongst many others).
So as I was saying, this is based on an Elmore Leonard book, as were such great films as "Get Shorty", "Out of Sight" and "Jackie Brown". If you know the guy's work or at least have seen those films, you know that he's got a thing for telling twisted, complex stories involving a large cast of colourful characters, most of them crooks, who are all trying to outwit, outplay and outlive each other. "Killshot" is no different.
The players here are Armand 'The Blackbird' Degas (Rourke), a half-Native American contract killer; Richie Nix (Gordon-Levitt), a young thug who's as dumb and hot-headed as Blackbird is thoughtful and cold-blooded; Donna (Dawson), Richie's Elvis-worshipping girlfriend; Carmen Colson (Lane), a real estate agent; and Wayne (Jane), Carmen's construction worker husband. How they all end up together, with the Mafia and the FBI also playing a part in things, involves a sometimes preposterous series of coincidences and misunderstandings I'll let you discover, but that's beside the point anyway. An Elmore Leonard yarn isn't about story; it's about character, attitude, dark humor, unexpected turns, outbursts of violence, sexyness, etc.
Even though he's no Soderbergh or Tarantino, John Madden mostly makes it work, setting up moods nicely and making things pop when he needs to. And then there's Rourke, who I just can't get enough these days. I was never a big fan of his back when he was a pretty boy in the 1980s, and then of course he wasted away for a long time in schlock flicks, but starting with "Sin City" and of course with "The Wrestler", he's turned into an actor who's both badass and incredibly soulful, an old broken down piece of meat who's also oddly endearing. At his side, Gordon-Levitt gives an explosive, very entertaining if a bit over the top performance. As for the rest of the cast, they're okay, but not so memorable.
Is "Killshot" an extraordinary or flawless film? Hardly. But does it have enough qualities to make it worth seeing? You bet.