SAM PECKINPAH’S THE KILLER ELITE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Killer Elite is a wild and crazy, late-career actioner from Sam Peckinpah that combined spy plotting, sort-of-insane-kung-fu, bloody shoot-outs, wild car-chases, and seemingly every other genre ingredient under the sun. Fronted by James Caan and Robert Duvall and surrounded by a terrific ensemble cast including Burt Young, Bo Hopkins, Mako, Arthur Hill, Gig Young, and many others, the plot involves CIA skulduggery, double-crosses, violent showdowns, political assassinations, and the kitchen sink. Jerry Fielding’s peppy and lively musical score perfectly accentuated all of the various action set-pieces, while the great cinematographer Philip Lathrop (Point Blank, The Driver, The Cincinnati Kid, Hard Times) called the shots behind the camera, making great use of San Francisco and other physical locations. Legendary filmmaker Monte Hellman served as editor. Distributed by United Artists in 1975, The Killer Elite has taken on cult-classic status among action movie lovers and Peckinpah enthusiasts, despite mixed reviews and not making a big dent in the box-office. A decent-enough remake was released in 2011 with Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, and Jason Statham, but the original contains that special brand of Peckinpah craziness that he brought to his action scenes; few have done slow-motion shoot-outs and macho confrontations the way he did. The Killer Elite is available from Twilight Time, and contains Peckinpah’s 1966 TV film Noon Wine, which had been previously unreleased on home video platforms.

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