Beautiful Carmen Colson and her ironworker husband Wayne are placed in the Federal Witness Protection program after witnessing an "incident". Thinking they are at last safe, they are targeted by an experienced hit man and a psychopathic young upstart killer. The ensuing struggle will test Carmen to the limit.
I know what you are all thinking, that I am in need of some serious counseling. After putting myself through the terrors of The Big Bounce last week, surely I would pick a movie that had at least a small chance of being good. I pledged to only watch films I hadn't seen this month, but I'm sure I could be forgiven for wanting to watch Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, or Get Shorty to cleanse the palette.
Hell no. Bring on Mickey Rourke.
Not that he, and he alone can make a movie bad. I actually like the guy. Sure, he's been in some awful dreck, but he's been on a roll the past few years. Are my expectations of Killshot unfairly low? It looks like straight to video trash, judging purely from the cover.
So what's this, it's directed by John Madden? The guy who did Shakespeare in Love. That's unusual. With a screenplay by Hossein Amini, the writer of The Wings of the Dove and Jude? Now I'm just confused. This has the makings of a Merchant Ivory film, not an Elmore Leonard adaptation.
Keep in mind, I have yet to read the novel, but based on the film, I'm sure the book is seventeen different types of fun. There are situations and characters that must come alive on the page. As for the movie, well, I'm sure there is a good film somewhere in the footage, it just didn't make it to the screen. Killshot sat on the shelf for a while, and it watches like a movie that has been edited and re-edited a bunch of times, especially considering Johnny Knoxville is featured in the trailer, yet doesn't have a moment of screen time. The victim of test screenings perhaps?
Time out for a quick anecdote. When I was in high school, I was in the drama club, and one of our preparation exercises was to do mismatched scenes and try to make them work. For example, we'd take a romantic scene, but instead of the sensitive male and expressive female, we'd do it as a hardcore soldier and a grandmother. It was usually good for a laugh, but not much else. Somethings, unlike leather and whips, just don't belong together.
That is the overwhelming feeling I got while watching Killshot. Perhaps it would have been two good separate movies, but combined, it just felt...off.
Mickey Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are good as a pair of hitmen, one the master, one the student. Rourke might play Blackbird a bit too seriously, but Levitt is excellent as the wildman Richie Nix. Of all the characters, Nix feels the most like a Leonard creation, and that is the highest compliment I can give his performance. However, along with their story comes the unfortunate Rosario Dawson, who is completely out of her element as Nix's Elvis obsessed girlfriend Donna. I got a feeling she misinterpreted her character in every way possible. Has Leonard ever written a character so pathetic as Dawson portrays Donna?
The second half of this odd combination film is the story of Carmen and Wayne Colson and their crumbling marriage. Diane Lane and Thomas Jane have good chemistry, and are believable as a couple on the ropes after years of marriage. However, they happen to witness...well I'm not quite sure what they witness, but they find themselves in the crosshairs of Blackbird and are quickly moved into the Witness Protection Program, where honestly, they are barely protected.
Again, apart, these might have made for compelling films, but together, they just don't work. I have to believe that it's mostly because director John Madden is trying to make a film that he just can't pull off. Leonard's works are not high tension thrillers, despite the presence of hired killers stalking prey. Gone is the black humor, and the whip-smart dialogue, everything which makes other adaptations work. The tone is completely wrong, complete with menacing score.
When Leonard's trademark dialogue does show up, it's like a beacon of light for this rudderless ship. "Honey, you should drink more and talk less." I almost cheered when the waitress said that, as it was almost the highlight of the film.
So is Killshot worth watching? Sure. Why not. But it's easy to see why it had to be dusted off the shelves.