Elmore Leonard ranks as one of my favorite authors of all time, and I enjoyed the quirky way that he spun out a yarn. He created interesting characters that made you sit up and pay attention to their shtick. In fact, if you know anything about Leonard, you can spot his stock characters in his work and know where they fit in to the puzzle of his westerns and crime thrillers. Mind you, I thought Leonard's novel "Killshot" was a page-turner, but neither Oscar-nominated director John Madden of "Shakespeare in Love" nor Oscar-nominated scenarist Hossein Amini of "The Wings of a Dove" could distill the essence of Leonard's novel and his eccentric storytelling technique. Actually, I've read "Killshot" the novel, and I thought it was one of his best. Nevertheless, Madden and Amini have a problem capturing Leonard's spirit with the same success that the filmmakers who made "Jackie Brown," "Out of Sight," "Mr. Majestyk," "Hombre," "Joe Kidd," the original "3:10 to Yuma," and "Get Shorty" managed. Madden and Amini do their level best to suppress that oddness that distinguished Leonard's work. Occasionally, Leonard's trademark dialogue and spontaneous action emerge in all their glory, and the redeeming quality of "Killshot" is that it occurs more often than not despite the best efforts of Madden and Amini to suppress it. Meantime, the "Killshot" cast is good, but Diane Lane, who is four years older that Jane, struck me as a little long in the tooth being play his estranged wife. These two thespians didn't radiate much chemistry, but then they were kind of out of sorts with each other.
During its best moments, "Killshot" is both spontaneous and improvised. The plot concerns a half-breed Native American contract killer who makes the fatal error of killing an innocent bystander after he has executed the man that he was paid to kill. Armand 'Blackbird' Degas (Mickey Rourke of "The Expendables") gets into trouble because he didn't kill the girl in the same place where he shot a mafia chieftain (Hal Holbrook) to death. Throughout the action, we hear Degas talk about loose ends. Leaving a witness to a crime who saw you commit it is something that Degas has taught himself never to do. The Toronto syndicate dispatches killers to liquidate Degas because he liked the girl. Degas decides to lay low, and he encounters an youth, egotistical drifter, Richie Nix (Joseph Levitt-Gordon of "The Look-Out"), who reminds him of his ill-fated younger brother who died tragically in a hospital shootout. Nix is a real loony-tune. He decides to blackmail a real estate agent by sabotaging his properties. He is looking to extort $10,000. In fact, he calls Nelson Davies (Don McManus of "The Shawshank Redemption")up and threatens him. Eventually, Degas and Nix visit the realtor's main office. Little do they know that Davies is not in his office when they show up to intimidate him. Instead, one of Davies' real estate brokers, Carmen Colson (Diane Lane of "Streets of Fire"), is in her office at lunch and his estranged husband, iron-worker Wayne Colson (Thomas Jane of "The Punisher"), is cavorting around in Davies' office. Nix makes the mistake of confusing Colson for Davies. When he makes more threats against Colson, the iron-worker takes them outside and attacks them.
When the FBI learn about this incident, they decide that the best thing that the agency can do is put the Colsons in the Witness Protection Program. They move them away to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where they assume different names. The Feds want to arrest Degas. Nix and Degas track down Carmen's mother and Nix persuades her to give him their new number. Degas and Nix has other things to worry about, and before long the FBI decides that the Colsons are in the clear. The Agency sifted through the burned-up wreckage of a Cadillac that Degas planted his brother in so as to throw the Feds off his scent. Nix and Degas break into Carmen's house out in the woods and hold her hostage. Again, they aren't expecting Wayne to show up when he does. It seems that this predicament that has shifted their lives has served to bring them together in a way that they haven't been together since before they split up. Earlier, when Degas confronted Carmen at her house, she had a shotgun aimed at him that she didn't use. In the final scene, Degas turns to find that she has a .38 snub nose revolver in her fists aimed at him. Degas remembers the gun because it belonged to Nix and he had emptied all the chambers. Nix had threatened Carmen with violence and he had rubbed a cartridge on her face that got lost on the floor. Imagine Degas' surprise when Carmen plugs him with that same bullet.
"Killshot" is a movie about circumstances. Meaning, there is no real, premeditated plot to speak aside from the chance encounters that the characters have for each other. Everything in "Killshot" occurs as a fluke, from Richie meeting Degas to Wayne monkeying around in Davies' real estate office and clashing with harebrained Richie. Joseph Levitt-Gordon does a superb job with Richie, though he comes dangerously close to hamming it up. Mickey Rourke is terrific as the doomed Degas. Barely released in theaters by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, "Killshot" deserved a better fate than it got.