KILLSHOT (2009)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Language and brief Nudity

Killshot poster

Directed by: John Madden

Written by: Hossein Amini

(based on the novel KILLSHOT by Elmore Leonard)

Starring: Thomas Jane, Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Rosario Dawson

KILLSHOT is yet another victim of the Weinstein Company’s sabotaging of their own projects. This crime thriller was originally supposed to come out in 2006, but was shelved until 2009 due to frequent re-edits and test screenings. I suppose that the director’s cut would be nowhere near a masterpiece, but it could have been a lot better than this final result. One entire plot threat involving a crooked cop played by Johnny Knoxville was removed entirely, though you can look back at the older trailers and spot him in certain scenes. KILLSHOT is not a bad movie by any means, but it’s a decent predictable thriller and it reeks of potential for something more. The studio’s interfering fingerprints are all over this fast-paced simple-plotted crime tale.

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Wayne and Carmen Colson are a recently separated couple on the path to divorce. Both of them wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up in the path of two murderous criminals. This dangerous duo is made up of loose-cannon amateur Richie and the calm hulking hitman Blackbird. Richie and Blackbird begin a game of cat-and-mouse with Wayne and Carmen that spans far longer than a single night. There’s enough time for multiple encounters and even different cities to be used. As Wayne and Carmen begin to fall back in love, Richie and Blackbird have tension brewing between them as they stalk the couple.

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KILLSHOT is a glamorous B-flick. It’s full of dumb decisions (especially in one notable scene when a character is on the phone and could easily tell the person she’s speaking with to call 911, but instead says “I’ll call you back” when she sees the recognizable hitman approaching from a distance). There are also plenty of coincidences that connect everything together in convenient ways. I’m not sure how good Elmore Leonard’s novel is (I’ve heard fantastic things), but this cinematic adaptation strains credibility and logic more than once. What it doesn’t deliver in smart characters, it makes up in some great tension-filled scenes. Threatening conversations, brooding moments of nothing violent really occurring, and a scenes involving shootouts (some of them very one-sided) are executed in capable ways. The plot may be strictly by the numbers, but it’s also so fast-paced that none of the logic gaps or plot holes bothered me too much. I enjoyed this in the same way I might enjoy a silly 80’s or 90’s action thriller. It’s fun while it lasts.

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The cast is a mixed bag. Thomas Jane and Diane Lane are convincing as a troubled couple experiencing marriage problems before the violent chaos even begins breaking out. However, the movie makes the odd decision of focusing far more on Mickey Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s characters. While I can buy Mickey Rourke as an intimidating cold contract killer, I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt was way too far over-the-top as Richie. He’s imitating a so-so Southern accent and almost acts like a cartoon character at points. I get that he’s supposed to be a loose-cannon and a psycho, but he’s almost comical at points and that doesn’t seem to have been the intention. Rosario Dawson is given a rather thankless role as Richie’s wife. She has some good bits, but it seems that most of her plotline was trimmed for the scant 95 minute running time. I also wish I had seen the thread with Johnny Knoxville playing a crooked cop, which might have given some more interesting directions to the film. It’s probably too much to hope for a director’s cut with Knoxville’s scenes reinserted into the film and Rosario Dawson taking up more screen time.

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KILLSHOT might have initially been far more than the end product indicates. The heavy studio editing is apparent. The movie rushes by with a fairly predictable plotline. The script also focuses far more on the bad guys than the couple on the run from them. It’s entertaining in the B-movie sense of things. This would be right at home in the mid to late 80’s. It’s a silly little ride that has some unique characters, fun scenes, and didn’t disappoint me in being a good time-killer. It’s far from the best movie of its type, but I enjoyed it for what it was. KILLSHOT is good time for fans of crime thrillers based around cat-and-mouse games, however predictable some of them may be.

Grade: B-

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