You see it above: the dreaded question mark which leaves no question
that something is amiss.
A lot in this case.
Killshot is a routine gangster flick about a divorcing couple who
witness an attempted murder, and thus become targets for the killers. The
FBI sends them into witness protection, but the killers are quite a bit
smarter than the FBI and figure out a way to fake their own deaths, thus
flushing the witnesses out of hiding and back to their home.
The film is not without positives, the strongest of which is the
powerful, dominating presence of Mickey Rourke as a cool and composed
native American (?!) who works as a professional killer. The story comes
from an Elmore Leonard book, and Mr. Leonard's work has inspired several
memorable films, including Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, two
versions of The Big Bounce, and two versions of 3:10 to Yuma. The
cinematographer is Caleb Deschanel, arguably the best in the business (5
Oscar nominations). The director is John Madden, who was nominated for an
Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. The supporting cast is solid as well: Diane
Lane and Tom Jane play the endangered couple.
And she looks so young.
Because she was!
And that brings us back to the matter of the question mark. You're
probably wondering why a film with all that A-list and B-list firepower is
going straight to the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. Long story.
Killshot had a troubled development process. Filming was completed in
2005, but that footage proved incapable of being edited into an acceptable
film, so the principals were called back for more shooting in January of
2007. In the re-writing process, one main character was eliminated
altogether, so Johnny Knoxville, who was featured prominently in the
original theatrical trailer back in 2006, ended up being cut from the film
completely. At various times, script revisions were done by Sydney Pollack
and Anthony Minghella, both of whom were inconsiderate enough to die
before the film could be completed. At one time Quentin Tarantino was
attached to the film in some type of producer status, but he didn't end up
signing the scorecard. Over the years, the film had been tentatively
scheduled for a release in five or six different periods, all of which got
postponed as the key distribution deadlines approached. At least some of
that had to do with internal problems at the Weinstein studio. In the
process of reorganizing their operation in the past year or so, the
Weinsteins tried (and failed) to sell their rights to this film, but no
other studios took the bait. After all the starts and stops, the film's
final theatrical presence in North America was limited to a trial run in
five theaters in Phoenix, after which the suits decided to release it to
DVD with no theatrical rollout. It might have found its way into a few
more theaters on the coattails of a Mickey Rourke Oscar, but the Mickster
lost out to Sean Penn, and that shut off the last hope for a Killshot run
in the cineplexes.
To be honest, this film is better than many theatrical releases, but
everyone could see that it was not headed for blockbuster status, and
nobody was much motivated to push it. Fixed expenses had already been
covered, of course, but nobody was confident that the film would cover the
variable expenses involved in a theatrical run. It might have grossed $20
million or so with a little luck, but a big chunk of that would have been
eaten up by the usual costs of making prints and buying ads. Given that
the studios pick up all of the variable expenses but get only about half
of the gross, and given that the cash outlays occur before the grosses
accrue, the Weinsteins didn't like their odds, so the DVD path seemed to
be less risky, especially since the studio seems to be watching the
pennies in the midst of rumored cash flow problems
So it goes.
As for the film itself, it lacks anything to make it memorable, but
it's not such a bad watch if you ignore some of the implausible elements
of the script and just focus on the positives I listed above. It would
have been a mediocre theatrical product, but as a straight-to-DVD product,
it is primo rental material for fans of the genre! The Mickster alone,
fascinating as always, makes it a worthwhile time-killer for those who
like the Elmore Leonard oeuvre.