The Killer Elite
Author: Gary McKendry and Matt Sherring
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:A group of mercenaries are forced to avenge the deaths of a wealthy Arab’s sons.
Synopsis:Mirbat, Oman, 1972. After a vicious attack between British and tribal forces that has left most of both sides dead, a British SAS soldier forces SALIM BIN AMR (20) to take an AK-47 into his hands. When Salim does, the SAS officer shoots him dead. SHEIKH AMR (40), Salim’s father, weeps over his son’s body. He complains that this war has caused him to lose three of his sons, leaving him only with little BAKHAIT (11). One of Amr’s compatriots attempts to stab him to death. Amr deflects the attack, killing his assailant. Ten years later, in South Africa, DANNY DE VILLIERS (30), an enigmatic man with a SEAL tattoo, is approached by Anne (30), a cute girl from a neighboring farm who attempts to flirt with Danny relentlessly. She has brought his mail back from town. Danny thanks her but doesn’t quite flirt back. He tears open a package that contains an airline ticket to Dubai, a photo of a beefy man chained to a wall, and something wrapped in tissue. Danny unwraps it to discover a bloody patch of skin bearing the same SEAL tattoo.
In Dubai, Danny meets a man known only as the AGENT. The Agent explains to Danny that HUNTER, the man in the photo, is being held by their prospective client because he turned down a $3 million job. Danny shudders to think of the assignment that would scare off Hunter. The Agent notes that if Danny doesn’t take and complete the job, Hunter will die. At an elaborate desert palace, an older, Oxford-educated Bakhait reluctantly leads Danny and the Agent to Amr, who is now terminally ill. Amr explains that his dying wish is to see revenge exacted upon the men who killed his sons. More than that, he wants videotaped confessions and he wants their deaths to look accidental. Danny wonders why Amr can’t send his own security force. Amr points out that they were killed by SAS, and he wants to fight fire with fire. Danny demands to see Hunter. Hunter lies chained to a wall, bloodied and beaten. Danny savagely beats Hunter’s guard, prompting other guards to attack Danny. The Agent provides Danny with a ticket to Paris. In London, SPIKE and MASON (both 40s) break into a mansion owned by SYMMINS, whom they beat savagely before delivering a message to leave England. Before leaving the mansion, Spike tosses down a business card that’s blank except for an image of a feather.
In Paris, Danny browses the files the Agent gave him on Amr’s sons. The next day, he spars with DAVIES (40, Welsh) at a boxing gym. Watching them is MEIER (35, German, fat). Danny tries to convince them to join him. They think he’s nuts and the plan is impossible, but they’re both in. Because Amr could only identify one of the killers, Danny sends Davies to an SAS-frequented pub to find out information on the other killings. Davies does, but he raises the attention of the bartender, who calls Spike. Spike sends some of his men to follow Davies. They follow him to the Omani Embassy, but they lose him on the way out because Davies abandons his car. Spike reports this to his superiors, a mysterious group of ex-SAS officers. Because Davies went to the Embassy to get a visa, Spike is instructed to send Mason to follow Davies to Oman. Meanwhile, in Oman, Danny and Meier surveil MILLING, the one killer Amr could identify. Milling lives in a fancy villa. While he showers, Milling nearly bashes his head on a dangerous corner of his shower. Danny and Meier decide to use this as their accident. Meier fabricates a mallet with flecks of green porcelain tile in the head. Danny and Meier return to the villa, posing as military historians interested in Milling’s career. When he opens the door, they hold a gun on him and tie him up. Milling thinks it’s a prank. Danny pulls out a video camera and forces Milling to confess, which he sarcastically does. Just as Danny is about to kill him, they hear a knock on the door. Danny and Meier vanish.
Mason spies on Danny, Davies, and Meier. Danny notices it quite quickly, so they follow him to his car and start shooting. Mason runs, and the others chase him until he kicks a hornet’s nest in their way. Later, the trio speculate on who Mason could have been. They assume he’s not police because he’s too good a shot. They decide to go with Plan B on Milling: Meier has sabotaged his military helicopter so it’ll go down over the Indian Ocean but look like a fluke. When Mason learns of the plan, he tries to warn Milling’s commanders, but they think he’s a crackpot. Spike tries to get his bosses to talk to the commanders, but they refuse. Danny returns to Dubai with the evidence of Milling’s confession and death. Amr is shocked by how strangely human Milling seems. Danny demands to see Hunter again, but Amr refuses. Danny goes back to Paris, where he celebrates with Davies and Meier over earning their first million. In London, Spike and Mason discuss why anybody would want to assassinate Milling.
Danny returns to South Africa. Anne flirts with him some more. He opens up to her a little bit, telling her he recently returned from a business trip to Paris, that he was born in England and raised in the U.S., and that he came to South Africa after inheriting his grandfather’s home. Davies returns to the SAS pub to gather more intelligence, and Spike finds out. He warns his bosses that this will lead to another killing. The bosses argue and take a vote, with the majority ruling to find Davies. Unfortunately, they’re too late. Davies spots a realistic mural depicting the Mirbat attack. He seeks out the artist, who says he was there and took photos. Davies says he’s trying to track down an old friend in the SAS. When the artist gets suspicious, Davies kills him, then sorts through his files until he finds the name he wants — Captain Mike KEALY. Back in South Africa, Danny’s relationship with Anne has escalated. He mostly stays at her farm. One day, he receives an urgent telegram from Davies about Kealy. Danny tells Anne he must leave immediately. Spike learns that there are only three Mirbat survivors in England. He seeks out the “star,” Kealy. Danny arrives in London, where Davies fills him in on Kealy. They follow him to a hospital, where he stays with his sick daughter. Meier bugs the room, so they find out Kealy is training for a grueling, 41-mile march through frozen mountains. While surveilling, Danny and Meier discover Spike is also watching Kealy. He confronts Spike, and they get into a vicious fight that results in Danny severely injuring his ribs.
Later, the trio discusses how to penetrate Kealy’s march, which will be swarming with SAS and other Army officials. They decide to slip some insulin in his tea. A high enough dose will kill Kealy. Unfortunately, Kealy only drinks half his tea. They think the dosage is still lethal, but they must track him to make sure. Meier sneaks past the officers to hide in Kealy’s tent. At gunpoint, Meier forces the weakened Kealy to confess murdering Salim. Kealy’s baffled, but he admits it. Meier jams a syringe with more insulin. Kealy won’t go down without a fight. He lunges at Meier, and they roll out of the tent, where Danny and Davies wait. All three must take his punishment to prevent from bruising Kealy. Danny has a nightmare about Anne discovering the horrible things that Danny has done. He awakes suddenly, back in South Africa. Anne complains that he was talking in his sleep. The next day, they take an uneasy car ride. Anne thinks Danny is secretly married. Danny denies it but refuses to open up about why he always has to run off to Europe at a moment’s notice. While they argue, a stamped of wildebeest cross the road. Their car is hit, and Anne is injured severely. Danny is forced to wait for another car to pass. He forces the driver at gunpoint to get them to a doctor as quickly as possible. Barely conscious, Anne witnesses this. The doctor manages to stabilize Anne. Later, after Anne has spent time recuperating, she asks Danny about pulling the gun on the driver. Danny explains he’d never hurt her, but he’s not a good man, and she shouldn’t ask him about his job. He also says once he finishes his last job, he’ll be done forever.
Danny returns to Davies and Meier and asks what they’ve done on the last file. They know somebody’s on to them, so they’ve been laying low. Browsing through the photos, Danny realizes the third killer wasn’t SAS at all — he was a standard soldier, MARMAN. Mason visits Marman at his apartment. Just as he’s about to leave, Danny and Meier show up, posing as plainclothes detectives. They ask Marman a series of questions. Meanwhile, Mason realizes he recognizes Danny from Oman. Spike asks his bosses for extra protection for Marman. They refuses because he’s not SAS. Meier edits the footage of Marman, splicing different questions against Marman’s real answers to manufacture a confession. They decide to use “the Boston Brakes” to dispatch Marman — it’s an elaborate, radio-controlled car rig set up by a nerdy guy named JAKE (19). They use their rig to control a tanker truck, but something goes wrong and the truck goes out of control. Meier, following in his car, pulls over and helps them repair the problem. The tanker comes upon Marman’s car, and Jake uses the tanker to slam into Marman, crushing him. Meanwhile, Spike sends security of his own to intercept them. Jake ends up accidentally killing Meier in his attempt to take out the attacker. They all dig through the man’s car, looking for information or a radio. Danny finds a false wall in the glove box that contains a radio and a pile of “Feathermen” business cards. They’re baffled.
Davies checks into a hotel, where Spike has distributed a card. The porter calls Spike, who sends men to torture Davies for information. Davies refuses to give up anything, so they kill him. The only thing they can find on him is a piece of paper with the Agent’s number, which they give to Spike. Bakhait is angry when he discovers Danny has succeeded. Nonetheless, he releases Hunter. Danny encourages him to quit. Danny returns to South Africa and happily announces to Anne that he’ll no longer have to return to Europe. Anne is back in the hospital due to complications from the crash. Mason traces the phone number and finds Davies’s military record. Spike takes this to his bosses, looking for help. Again, they refuse, saying the Agent isn’t enough of a lead. One day, a farmhand shows Danny that somebody has shot a foal. Danny receives a sudden call from the Agent announcing a problem with the job. Danny refuses, but the Agent suggests Danny check with Anne. Danny goes to the hospital and finds a single bullet, nestled in Anne’s hair. He hides the bullet before she wakes up, then breaks the bad news that he must go to Dubai.
Now bed-ridden, Amr shows Danny the tape of Milling’s sarcastic confession. He points out a recently published book by RANULPH FIENNES details the scenario leading to Amr’s son’s death. Milling didn’t do it, and although Amr will accept Fiennes’s book as a confession, Danny must finish the job. Unable to get in touch with Davies, Danny calls the Agent to find out everything he knows about Fiennes. He goes to London and, pretending to be a bike messenger, receives information from the Agent, in his car. By coincidence, Spike witnesses the exchange and sees Danny taking a Publisher’s Weekly. Spike ransacks a newsstand until he finds one, and he discovers where the next hit will take place — at Fiennes’s reading in London. Spike, his men, and Mason set up to intercept Danny during the reading. Unfortunately, he’s too late — Danny has already killed Fiennes. Spike chases him through the building, up to the roof, where he’s intercepted by Mason. Spike brings Danny back to the body and discovers Fiennes groaning — he’s still alive. Spike tries to sort out who Danny is, who he works for, and what this is all about. Finally, Danny agrees to give Spike what he needs if he releases him. Spike agrees, so Danny spills the entire story. Spike tries to kill him anyway, but Danny fights to get free and escapes.
Spike goes to Dubai with Danny’s camera, filled with photos of Fiennes’s faked death. Bakhait is surprised to see him instead of Danny. Bakhait leads Spike to Amr, who tells Bakhait to distribute the photos so everyone will know what he’s done. Spike tells Amr he has a message. He leans in close, raising a dagger as he whispers that the photos are fakes. Before he can bring the dagger down, Bakhait increases Amr’s morphine drip until he overdoses and dies. Spike announces that Fiennes is still alive, and Bakhait says he doesn’t care, and he doesn’t want to be a prisoner on this patch of desert. Bakhait gives Spike $3 million, which he leaves in its briefcase on the street. Danny tells Anne he has to leave because they’ve found him here. Anne is disappointed that they have to say goodbye, but Danny decides to take her with him.
Comments:The Killer Elite attempts to be a taut cat-and-mouse thriller, but it does not accomplish this by any stretch of the imagination. Although it has some interesting action sequences, the script suffers from unappealing characters and a story that completely unravels in the third act. As written, it merits a pass.
The first and second acts develop a solid yet unremarkable story about paid mercenaries seeking revenge on behalf of a dying billionaire. Danny is given three targets, and he kills all three by the third act. The action sequences are compelling and well-written, but everything surrounding the action falls flat. Danny and his friends find the targets much too easily, and although the writers present Spike and his “Feathermen” organization as a formidable obstacle, that entire aspect of the story simply falls flat.
It’s only in the third act that Spike becomes vital to the story, yet how he becomes vital remains unclear. After killing Meier and Davies, Spike finally closes in on Danny when he’s forced to take care of Fiennes. However, the Fiennes plot development comes out of left field and is handled ineptly, leading to more confusion when Danny decides to tell Spike everything and hand over Fiennes in exchange for his freedom. It’s never made clear why Danny chooses to fake Fiennes’s deaths but not the others, or why Spike goes to Dubai to kill Amr. Perhaps if the writers had done a better job of developing the characters’ motives, these plot developments would not seem to arbitrary and incoherent.
Unfortunately, neither Danny nor Spike have much dimension at all. Danny’s problems start at the very beginning, when he’s forced to kill people in order to free Hunter, whose importance to Danny is never made clear. Danny’s apathy for the situation is palpable, and it doesn’t exactly make him an exciting lead. He has no energy and little interest in what he’s doing, which won’t give the audience much incentive to root for him. The writers saddle Danny with a disappointing romantic subplot that does little to reveal anything about his character, other than his guilty conscience and his country of origin. Spike has even less depth; he spends most of his time whining at his bosses and ordering other people to do things on his behalf.
The supporting characters have a few generic adjectives to distinguish themselves from one another (Meier’s fat! Milling’s a drunk!). Much of their dialogue consists of on-the-nose explanations of the plot.
No matter how good the action sequences are, they will not make audiences forget (or even ignore) the script’s many other problems. It simply needs more substantive characters to drive its plot.