“You’ve gotta know what you’re doing when you go in. You gotta have it figured out. Those are the rules. How you get in. How you get out. How many shots you’re gonna need. Make sure you know where everybody is. Make sure nobody sees you. Don’t hang around. Don’t get interested. Then you don’t make mistakes.”
How many times have we seen some criminal looking to do that one last job that can get them out of the business forever? This time it’s a hit man known as “The Chief” or “blackbird” (Rourke). He’s an American Indian, and he’s considered one of the best in the business. He sticks religiously by his rules. As the film opens we see that he kills a young woman in the shower just because she saw his face. Unfortunately for Blackbird, the girl happened to be sleeping with the guy who hired him. That guy’s not so happy that she got killed during the job. Now the hunter’s going to become the hunted as the boss wants revenge for the girl’s death. Enter Richie Nix (Gordon-Levitt) who’s a young punk super crook wannabe. He’s been threatening a car dealer he intends to shake down. To get wheels for that job he jacks a car that happens to be driven by Blackbird. The two end up becoming somewhat kindred souls, and Blackbird needs a place to lay low, so he agrees to school Richie and help him pull off the job. Of course, that doesn’t go well, and a woman at the dealership gets a good look at them. She and her husband get away, but now Blackbird and Richie have to track them down and kill them. The couple, Wayne (Jane) and Carmen (Lane) have already had their share of problems and were about to split up when they’re forced into witness protection. The two rekindle the old romance somewhat while trying to stay alive.
Mickey Rourke has become somewhat of a chameleon of late. After decades of almost no notable roles he has emerged as a rising comeback kid. He was robbed of a Best Actor statue for The Wrestler, and he puts in another rather compelling performance here. Again it’s not so much his acting as his ability to completely inhabit a part. He becomes instantly believable which works well with a minimum amount of film time required for us to get to know him at all. I was also impressed with the former Third Rock From The Sun kid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. There’s a pretty good combination once these two get together. There’s a subplot involving Richie’s girlfriend that just bogs the piece down. It’s intended to add some tension between the characters, but honestly Madden should have trusted in the ability of these two guys to create that tension without the need of a love triangle. Diane Lane is one of those actors that is also quite invisible in a role. Again it’s not anything dramatic or eye-catching. She merely puts her character on like she was simply putting on a pair of jeans. Thomas Jane is an unlikely hero type here and put in what was likely a fine performance, but one ultimately upstaged at every turn. The isolated cabin climax is a bit too clichéd, and Madden certainly needs to work on his pacing. He hasn’t had a ton of feature experience, but he needs to trust the vision a bit more. This turned out to be a pretty okay film that had the potential to be really bad. It could have been even better, however, if Madden had played more to his strengths.
You can’t blame all of the film’s flaws on Madden either. There were some rather highly publicized shooting disagreements and conflict on the film. I’m afraid it was doomed out of the gate and ended up in an extremely limited release before going to DVD. Too bad, because this was actually not a bad film at all.
Killshot is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. I’m not exactly sure about what’s going on with this image. The cinematography looks pretty first rate, and there are moments where the film allows itself to exhibit solid sharpness and color. Unfortunately it looks like somebody got a little carried away in the process of the transfer. There are ample signs of digital manipulation, and I’d love to know Madden’s thoughts on this presentation. Black levels are fair, but this is a disappointing release in this department.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 does a far better job of delivering the goods. There some wonderful LFE stuff here, so you’ll get some action out of your subs. While the surround mix couldn’t be described as aggressive, it does provide a nice immersive realistic atmosphere. Dialog is clear and ever present.
In the end, in spite of its flaws I really liked this one. I definitely recommend you find a way to see it, likely through a rainy day rental. There’s nothing terribly original about the idea, but it’s worth watching for some of the performances. John Madden, and I don’t (Boom) mean the football analyst, has some good instincts. I’m interested to see what he’s got next down the pipeline. Just remember, John…”You gotta know what you’re doing.”