Something must be seriously wrong with “Killshot,” the straight-to-video flick starring the resurgent Mickey Rourke. The movie features not just Rourke, but rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Diane Lane, Rosario Dawson and Thomas Jane – reputable actors, all.
And it’s under the direction of John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”), working from an Elmore Leonard story. And it still rocketed past every movie theater save one in Arizona earlier this year, netting a measly $18,000?
The film, heading to DVD May 26, deserved a better fate.
Sure, it’s not as snarky as a great Leonard adaptation like “Get Shorty,” but it’s vigorously entertaining and another sign Rourke’s artistic rebound is the real deal – even if the film was shot before the actor’s comeback saga started.
The ex-“Wrestler” plays Blackbird, a killer for hire who shot one too many people on his latest assignment. Now, it’s his turn to run, but a chance encounter with a puffed-up thug named Richie (Gordon Levitt) stops him cold. The kid reminds him of his own little brother who died during a botched hit when he didn’t follow his older brother’s professional code.
Hit men take said codes very seriously.
Richie is all mouth and attitude, but he touches something inside the hardnosed hit man.
Their paths end up crossing a separated couple (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) trying to see if their marriage deserves a second chance.
The storylines here need more room to breathe, but they aren’t the main attraction in “Killshot.” It’s the fine cast, an eclectic assortment of stars who rise above the narrative gaps. The weakest link might be Gordon Levitt, working so hard against type the cords stand out in his neck. Yet somehow the performance still clicks, mostly because he shares his scenes with Rourke.
The former ’80s mainstay finds another role uniquely suited to his battered visage. He’s playing Hollywood’s latest cliché, the conflicted hit man, but Rourke finds the humanity – and danger – lurking within the stale concept.
“Killshot” sounds like a grade-B thriller right down to its cheesy title, and its DVD debut only reinforces that impression. But the format’s lower expectations, and a cast worthy of a theatrical release, provide some unexpected rewards.
“The Informers,” a drama with a similar grade of actors, earned a wide theatrical release last month. So why couldn’t the far superior “Killshot” get the same level of respect?
Christian Toto is a contributing reporter for The Washington Times, MovieMaker Magazine and The Denver Post. He blogs about film at whatwouldtotowatch.com