“Killer Elite”: From Book to Expectation to the Big Screen to Major Disappointment!

The idea of this movie had such promise: 3 big Hollywood stars and international intrigue in the Sultanate of Oman, Britain and France.  Wow!  It seemed to sell itself so easily.  Now it was just a matter of watching this sure-to-be-masterpiece at the movie theatre.  The problem was that this potential proved itself to be a short-lived fantasy less than halfway through my popcorn box!  The 4 major let-downs of the movie are:

1)  The Acting:                                                                                                                                                                     I know Jason Stratham is “a big name” in Hollywood but I’ve never enjoyed anything he’s been in.  He seems to be an action hero for today’s mindless audience that love violence, blood, car chases and a few explosions thrown in for good measure which is exactly what we got in this film.  “Well, at least Robert de Niro is in it”, I thought.  I used to enjoy a lot of his movies but it seems like everything he’s been in during the past few years has been nothing but disappointment. (Like the horrible movie “What Just Happened?” which was exactly how my wife and I felt on leaving the theatre after that crash!)  I was hoping this would be a major comeback to his more impressive earlier acting career.  It wasn’t.  Clive Owen, which the killer-elite website suggests is the world’s newest Bogart or Sean Connery (whatever!), always plays the same sleazy type of character to me.  They hold him in high regard for his role in “Closer” which was such a disgusting, nasty role that I haven’t enjoyed watching him acting ever since!  Of the three Hollywood bigshots, Clive Owen’s acting was probably most noteworthy.

2) Location:                                                                                                                                                                      The main disappointment (for me) was not necessarily the bad acting (although I thought the Sheikh in the movie played the most convincing role!).  The biggest disappointment to me was the choice of film location and the focus on fight scenes and other so-called “action” rather than a convincing storyline.  As someone who has really enjoyed my last 4 years living in the Sultanate and a person who is fascinated with the people, culture and history of Oman, I was so looking forward to watching a movie which was predominately about Oman.

Imagine my total surprise to learn that not one scene was filmed in Oman!  Anyone who knows Oman would recognize while watching that it was not filmed here.  It was funny to see the Omanis whispering to one another when the screen read “Muscat Airport”.  Most people in the crowd knew it wasn’t and were telling each other that very fact, ha!ha!  Would it have been so difficult to have it filmed here?  They could have at least set a filming crew over to capture a few scenes. (?!?!)  It would have made it more enjoyable and believable (for those of us in Oman at least).  Read more about the location they did shoot it in here at the location guide website.  There were only a few scenes that looked somewhat like the mountains of Oman.  The premise of the movie revolves around an event that was supposed to have taken place during “The Battle of Mirbat” so my wife and I were hoping to see scenes of Mirbat as we enjoyed a trip there a few years back.  Nope! Forget it!  Now that I think about it, all of the references to Oman were quite insulting.  “That godforsaken land…A  useless slab of desert whose only virtue is resting on a plot of oil…” Stuff like that.  I wonder how Omanis felt while watching it and hearing such disparaging words about their land.

3) Confusion Between Fact and Fiction:

The movie is based loosely on a book titled “The Feather Men” which I have yet to get my greedy little hands on.  In the movie, the author is mentioned but instead of the proper name of the book, it’s supposed to be from a book titled “Soldiers and Tribesmen”.  Anyway, I’m not about to give the whole story away here, but the ending is supposed to be quite a shocker.  That totally would have worked in the book, but it doesn’t come off as anything special in the movie.  One of the characters in the movie actually took the words right out of my mouth when they exclaimed, “Will it Ever End?!”  The writer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, tried to promote the film by claiming it “was based on real events” and the producers, in the sake of making money still claim that it’s “based on real events” even though it’s been revealed that it is not!  Here’s one article about the controversy over his book-turned-movie in The Telegraph And here’s another.  The author sounds like a megalomaniac who is more interested in making a man for himself than being truthful.  The family of one of the men supposedly killed in one of the book and movie’s scenes confronted him with making it up and he confessed that he had indeed made it all up.  The author took the unethical slip of writing an interesting book based loosely on his 2 years of service in the Sultan’s Armed Forces to twisting facts to make something seem more fascinating and thereby making more money.

4) A Cast of Unlikable and Unlikely “Heroes”:                                                                                                                                                                                          Some of the movie posters for Killer Elite include the line “May the Best Man Live” but that is clearly not appropriate as everyone is a ruthless killer in the film.  It should read “May the Least Evil Man Survive“.  I guess those are the kinds of heroes we can expect in this “Grand-Theft-Auto-generation” where the main heroes of the majority of movies out there are thieves, criminals, gangsters and con-artists.

Have any of you here in the Sultanate seen “Killer Elite”?  If so, what did/do you think?  I’m especially interested in hearing what Omanis think of the movie.

14 responses to ““Killer Elite”: From Book to Expectation to the Big Screen to Major Disappointment!

  1. Hi Andy,
    I’ve read The Feather Men. It was a fascinating read and I was left wondering if it really was fiction, mainly because it contained black and white photos of the various men who died in the story. I heard that the Sultanate would not allow any filming to take place in Oman so I can understand how the film would have lacked authenticity. Going off your review, I think I’ll stick to the book.
    Hope you and family are well.
    Alan & Susan

  2. Book is an excellent read – have read it several times.
    Think I have a copy here in the villa if you would like to borrow it to read?

    Not seen the film, wasn’t aware their was one being made of it – will try and catch it when I can

  3. Hi


    Please check the link to complete Oman Cinema Survey

  4. Hi, Alan!
    Because of the photos in the older version, there was more confusion about whether it was all true or not but they have removed those photos from new versions and the writer has admitted his twisting of facts. Thanks for the comment. The family is doing well, praise God! If you and Susan ever get back to the Sultanate and aren’t too busy, let us know. We’d love to see you guys again! 🙂

    I would LOVE to borrow that book! Thanks for the offer. Maybe we could do a book swap. I could loan you “In the Service of the Sultan” (or another book) if you haven’t read it. If you are serious about lending me that book, please send me an email at andydbrown@hotmail.com and we can meet up at a time and place of your convenience. They said it will be playing at Al Shatti for a few weeks. Cheers!

    Did it! Wonder who you are though and why you’re doing a survey on cinemas in Oman…

  5. It’s an uneven mix, though it still delivers in fits and starts. However, I just wish they did more with the opportunities of they had of having De Niro, Owen, and Statham in the same film. Nice review.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Dan.
    Checked out your blog. Another movie lover! Your review of Killer Elite was quite detailed. I agree with your score of 5/10 and your suggestion of it being better viewed as “a rental”! 🙂 As a lover of films, I’ll be giving your blog a closer look.

  7. Hi..saw the movie..totally suprised that it was allowed to be screened @ shaati..second..very right about lack of authenticity and a never-heard-of story on which the movie seemed to be based upon… It was just another flick..glorifying criminal secret services like SAS and demonizing the Arab lands and its people.. Wonder if they would ever create movies, depicting the real everyday living in Arabian cities…cheers. mfabdul@hotmail.com

  8. I just bought the movie.I will watch it in few min…@Faisal if it was allowed to be screened in Oman then its more of a fiction then reality .

    Note: i am from Oman

    • lubyluv,
      Cool! Let me know what you think of it. If you’re from Oman then maybe you’d be so kind as to let me know where you bought it so I can pick up a copy for myself. Hopefully it comes with some indepth behind the scenes info on the DVD!

  9. I am from Oman as well and the movie is almost fictitious

    • Well, the author did serve in the Dhofar War and so many of the details might be based on his experience. But yes, the main details of interest are fictitious it seems. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Hi Andy , I agree with everything you say , I can’t believe I didn’t think about watching it before, I watched it on the plane and was quit surprised and insulted as an omani . As you said the script referring to Oman is basically depicting it to be a useless land that happens to have oil and its worth is equalized to the amount of oil it has. The sheiks son was like the dumbest person alive and the worst character in all the movie, watching his dad die and saying nothing about it and to top it all he reminds his dad’s killer of the money prize ! Are you kidding me! The other scene that I hated was the sheiks son with the whores as usual hollywood depicting arab men as uncontrollably lustful like they ‘ve never seen women before. I really don’t know how they allowed this movie to be shown in omani theatres. Dum*ss movie total failure.

    • Safiya,
      Thanks for sharing your opinion! 🙂 Due to the fact that this movie was supposed to be based on events in Oman, views from those in the Sultanate are always appreciated!

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