The 1989 Elmore Leonard novel Killshot
is a real palm-sweater, with a relentless storyline, compellingly conflicted protagonists running for their lives, and--just behind and sometimes ahead of them--a walking nightmare of a half-Indian stone killer named "Blackbird," plus the freaked-out small-timer he's taken under his wing. The movie version was produced by Quentin Tarantino's longtime partner Lawrence Bender, with Mickey Rourke as the hitman who lets no one
live after seeing his face, the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick
) as his jittery acolyte Richie Nix, and Diane Lane and Thomas Jane as the about-to-divorce couple who run afoul of them by grotesque miscue and end up in the Witness Protection program. Sounds like a recipe for an edgy suspense classic--except that, after filming in 2005, the picture sat on the shelf for years, to be taken down for periodic recuts, which included dropping one whole line of action and the featured player associated with it. At 84 minutes, Killshot
has been reduced to a collection of Leonard ingredients, still tantalizing but half-baked. The Oscar-nominated director of Shakespeare in Love
is willing to let these lumpy remains be billed as "A John Madden Film," so blame him for failing to make more of Rourke's creepy rapport with putative victim Lane and Richie's Elvis-worshipping girlfriend Rosario Dawson, for Gordon-Levitt's over-the-top (but undeniably appropriate) portrayal of Richie, and for the heavyhanded editing and repetitious, over-interpretive dialogue (by Hossein Amini). There's some good wintry location work in Ontario and in Leonard's home-base Michigan, and a brief sojourn in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the birthplace of Rush Limbaugh. --Richard T. Jameson
A married couple is sent to a remote location by the Federal Witness Protection program. When a pair of ruthless hit men track them down, they are forced to fight for their lives.