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The Killer Elite & True Story Action Movies

Killer Elite, starring Robert De Niro and Jason Statham, is the latest action film based on a true story. Killer Elite, starring Robert De Niro and Jason Statham, is the latest action film based on a true story.

We love a good action-packed spy thriller as much as you do – even more so when it is based on fact. The screenplay for Killer Elite, starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, is loosely based on Ranulph Fiennes’ novel The Feather Men, billed as a fictionalized memoir, a slight oxymoron perhaps.

Statham and De Niro play best-buddy bulletproof assassins. Statham wants out; De Niro pulls him back in. Owen, a former SAS agent, is the pesky nemesis hell bent on destroying their one-off mission. Nonstop action and fantastic stunt sequences are almost enough to mask De Niro’s boredom, but not enough to divert your attention from Owen’s San Fernando Valley porn-stache and weird eyeball. Statham’s performance is steady, running around killing everything that moves when he’s not pining for the fjords and his new hometown girlfriend. If you’re looking for an escape, and relaxing means bullets and brawls, Killer Elite proves entertaining enough though we’re not sure we’d watch it again on cable.

The following based-on-a-true-story flicks, however, we just can’t manage to surf past:

All the President’s Men (1976)

Alan Pakula was the master of taking a yawner of a subject like Watergate and turning it into an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Both Ron Howard and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said that before directing or writing a movie, respectively, they always screen this film. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein deliver some of the finest performances the screen will ever see, and Jason Robards’ portrayal of the salty Washington Post newsman Ben Bradlee is legendary. Redford’s clandestine meetings with Deep Throat in a sparse parking structure prove that the right director can pull off suspense and drama using only lighting, close-ups and good actors.

The Great Escape (1963)

We could just drop the names of the cast members – Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Donald Pleasance – and leave it at that, but that would be too easy. Based on the book by Paul Brickhill, who was a prisoner at Stalag Luft III during World War II, director James Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, Ice Station Zebra) recognized the gift horse he was riding and let the interaction of his actors and a great script carry the story, leaning less on explosions for the film’s drama. Little was fictionalized save McQueen’s fabulous motorcycle ride that he insisted on doing himself. The ride sequence alone is worth the price of a rental.

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Based on the book by Mark Bowden, director Ridley Scott's (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise) ensemble cast consists of Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana and Sam Shepard. Black Hawk Down depicts the Battle of Mogadishu, which was part of the United States' effort to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Even though the action is so intense that you can almost feel the heat from the screen, Scott affords just enough sentimental character development in the film, drawing audiences into the film even more. The epic tale won Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound at the 74th Academy Awards.

Falcon & the Snowman (1985)

Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton portray the real-life fallen Catholic altar boys, Andrew Daulton Lee and Christopher Boyce. Boyce (Hutton) is a civilian defense contractor who becomes disillusioned by the American government and recruits his childhood pal, a drug-dealing Lee (Penn), to pass secrets to the Soviets. Penn’s coked out character doesn’t particularly share Boyce’s disdain for the U.S. government; he just wants one last score big enough to afford him an escape to Costa Rica to live his life on the beach. As smarmy as they are, we’re sad when the pair get popped and consequently sent up the river. Director John Schlesinger (Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy) elicits performances from Hutton and Penn so fine that we forgive him for his awful Madonna flick, The Next Best Thing

The Killer Elite opens nationwide this weekend, September 23, 2011.

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Killer Elite is the latest action film based on a true story.
Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 18:50

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