Killshot, which had a small and unsuccessful token release in January (it grossed a whopping $18,000, which meant about 2000 people saw it, few of whom were movie critics) is a very bad movie, which is no surprise. Since their split with Miramax, The Weinsteins haven’t had a big hit yet, though they do seem pretty good at dumping movies from their slate without anyone noticing. Killshot is no exception — it sat on a shelf for three years before it was finally released, promotion-free, into five theaters in Bumblefuck, Oklahoma.
The problem with Killshot, unfortunately, is that it should’ve been a good movie. All the ingredients are there. Excellent cast: Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Diane Lane, Rosario Dawson and Thomas Jane; an Oscar-nominated director, John Madden (Shakespeare in Love); an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove, Four Feathers); and excellent source material, Elmore Leonard’s novel. With all that talent, I have no idea how they managed to screw up this movie as badly as they did. My guess is that, in post-production, they mangled the hell out of it (Johnny Knoxville had a subplot that was completely excised, for instance.) The result is a movie that’s too straightforward — it feels like a film with contextual gaps. The narrative goes from point A to point B just fine, but it feels as though the part of the movie that provided the characters’ spirit and motivations was yanked out. The result is a flat, limpid, overly simplistic film, and though I haven’t read Leonard’s Killshot, I’ve read enough of his work to know that the movie must have done a huge disservice to the novel.
Here’s the streamlined plot synopsis: Mickey Rourke plays Blackbird, a Native American mafia hitman who takes out his Mafia boss and then decides to move back to the reservation to retire. There, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s psychotic Richie Nix, who is running some sort of real-estate racket, tries to steal Blackbird’s Cadillac and, inexplicably, Blackbird decides to make him his partner. Subsequently, in a case of mistaken identity, a real estate agent (Lane) and her husband (Jane) identify the two; the feds put them the couple in witness protection; and Blackbird and Nix attempt to track them down, kill them, and tie up some lose ends.
The performances in Killshot aren’t bad. There’s not a lot of dynamism to Rourke’s character, but Gordon-Levitt does unhinged and maniacal pretty well (although, it’s apparent that he’s four years younger in the film). Diane Lane’s character, who is on the verge of a divorce, sombers around the picture lazily, while Jane is barely in the movie enough to damage it. And we’re never really given a reason why the married couple is splitting up — in fact, they seem fairly well suited to one another. Rosaria Dawson, who plays Nix’s fuck-buddy, spends most of the film trying to out-somber lane, and she’s successful for the most part.
But the biggest issue, besides the focus-tested, drunken editing bender the Weinsteins went on, is that they hired the guy who directed Shakespeare in Love and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the writer behind The Wings of the Dove to write and direct an Elmore Leonard noir, which is like asking Yo Yo Ma to perform AC/DC riffs. I’m sure he could do a technically proficient job, but the result would be hard-rock muzak. And that’s pretty much what Killshot is: “Back in Black” on the cello.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba.