Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Killshot (2008)

Movie quotes:
Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt): You ever work with anyone before?
Blackbird (Mickey Rourke): My brothers. One is in prison forever, and my kid brother is dead. You remind me of him – he was a stupid guy.

"Looks like you’re gonna have trouble with this one. He might shoot the wrong bird."
- Lionel (Aldred Montoya)

FBI real estate agent (Steve Cumyn): If the neighbors ask, you paid about 200 thousand dollars for it.
Donna (Diane Lane): It looks more like 150 to me.

"They’ll be a slight delay in the divorce proceedings while the couple hide out from the killers."
- Wayne (Thomas Jane)

At a glance:
Mickey Rourke gives a powerful performance  as an aging, all-business hit man teaming with an out of control young thug to terrorize a recently divorced couple

Our review:
Blackbird (Mickey Rourke) is just another in the neverending parade of hit men who are doing that elusive last big job before they retire. Unfortunately, Blackbird is overzealous on that last job; he not only shoots the mark, but also the mark’s female visitor – and she was working for his client. Suddenly, there is a price on his head, and his visit to his small home town of Algonac, Michigan is lengthened. And yet, even if he wasn’t a wanted man, he is marked as something evil and is not welcome in his home town. With time to kill, he teams up with Richie, a brash, young and stupid hood who reminds him of his deceased little brother. Their little caper backfires, and Blackbird and Richie try to cover their tracks by killing the recently Carmen (Diane Lane) and Wayne (Thomas Jane), a recently divorced couple that identified them. Even witness protection does not provide adequate safety for these two; they must defend themselves, and in the process, put their trial separation on hold.

I’ve gotten into heaps of trouble in the past when I review movies where the protagonists are basically evil with no redeeming qualities. Forgive me, but I don’t like these types of movies; I was raised on 1940s Hollywood fare and got used to the old Code. For example, in Surveillance, the two serial killers kill only because they get tremendous joy out of it, and it invigorates their love life. Blackbird isn’t on that level; he’s a businessman, a killing machine, who ties up loose ends by making sure that there are no witnesses to his work, even if those witnesses are innocents. He’s not sadistic like, say, Javier Bardem’s character in No Country For Old Men; on the other hand, and gratefully so, he’s not imbued with some kind of Hollywood Hitman Moral Code. He's a self-preservationist. And he tutors Richie into something worse than he was before they met; like Blackbird, Richie will now kill any loose ends, rather than just offing people who upset him. Still, if you’re looking for an upside, Blackbird cleans up his own work when he sees what he has created in Richie.

In the end (MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW) Blackbird proves not to be a very efficient killing machine at all. Offended by the behavior of Richie, he shoots him a bit prematurely – it probably would have made more sense to do this after the confrontation with Wayne. Despite Richie’s offensive behavior toward Carmen, he still would have protected Blackbird’s back in a fire fight. And again, it would have made sense to kill Carmen as soon as Wayne arrived. She was of no more use, and that’s what cold-blooded hit men do.

Rourke’s character is not as compelling and does not have the resonance of his turn as an aging wrestler in The Wrestler; nonetheless, it is a compelling performance. We want to know more about why this man is what he is: was it his troubled childhood, or a single incident? But this is left to our imagination.

Rating: 2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"It's ultimately Rourke who makes the film worth watching."
-Bill Goodykoontz (Arizona Republic)

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