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Monday, December 21, 2009

THE KILLER ELITE (1975)


Sam Peckinpah never quite recovered from the critical & commercial dismissal of his masterful BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA/’74. But if he could no longer take his work seriously, he could still whip up a heady brew of gleeful nihilism. This whopper follows James Caan & Robert Duvall as two lethal operatives who partner for a company that subcontracts stuff that’s too dirty for the C.I.A. to handle. But Duvall goes rogue, leaving Caan crippled and bent on revenge. When that opportunity arises, Caan discovers that he and his ex-pal may still be working for the same side. The tricky plot doesn’t really add up or dovetail with the sidebar characters in Stirling Silliphant’s choppy script and Peckinpah can’t (or won’t) rouse himself to properly stage the big martial arts climax; the absurdist ending is very John Huston. An intriguing path not taken by Peckinpah or merely a sign of fatigue? Along the way, there’s great support from a cadre of cool customers like Arthur Hill, Gig Young, Bo Hopkins, Burt Young and Mako. Think of it as Peckinpah lite.

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