Movies From the Black Lagoon: Killshot

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Killshot - 2008, Rated R
by Tom Doty

A couple on the verge of a divorce is pitted against a seasoned hit man and his psychotic apprentice in this exceptional thriller from the pen of Elmore Leonard. He's the same writer who conceived of "Get Shorty", "Out of Sight", and "Jackie Brown" as well as a ton of other thrillers that all cry out for movie adaptations.
The film opens with an introduction to the players. We meet Native American assassin "Blackbird" Degas as he ponders a career change after seeing his youngest brother die by his own hand during a botched assignment. Degas opts to do one last job, for a rising Mafia hood who wants to replace the reigning kingpin. The job goes well but Degas' "No Witness" policy gets him in Dutch. Turns out he wasn't supposed to shoot the Don's girlfriend as she was in on the hit.
Next we meet Carmen and Wayne Colson. She's a real tor; he's a construction worker. Their marriage is under pressure after losing a child. The situation is compounded by Wayne being laid off from construction work and Carmen being undecided about what she wants.
Finally we are introduced to Richie Nix. He's one twisted mama-jama. When he's not trying to rip off his former foster mothers he's cooking up get rich schemes. His latest plan involves breaking into vacant homes and trashing them. Then he calls the realty company and promises that he will destroy more of their properties unless they give him some money.
These folks manage to collide in spectacular fashion. First Nix hooks up with Degas after trying to steal his car. The two bond over bank robbing stories but it's really the guild Degas feels over losing his brother that allows Nix to get close. Degas decides to help Nix shake down the realty company but that plan implodes in spectacular fashion. They show up at the worst time of day (lunch hour) and then mistake Wayne for their victim. Wayne is suitably impressed when Nix begins breaking up the office but the cool factor gets Nixed when Richie leaps onto a Moose head trophy and can barely wrest it from the wall. Wayne winds up driving both of them off with a golf club but these characters will keep meeting now and a lot of blood will be shed before they're done with each other.
This one deserves a viewing for many reasons but the story comes first. Luckily they don't stray far from Leonard's novel so the film is rife with compelling characters, snappy dialog, and intense action scenes. The film gets a major assist from a seasoned cast. Mickey Rourke is totally in charge as Degas. His performance hits all of the right notes and conveys a character of great dignity that is at the end of his run. The scenes where he visits his old reservation are beautifully played with Rourke giving you the scenes that his character is dying to be accepted by the culture he gave up for a life of crime. Diane Lane and Thomas Jane make you care about the Colsons and also respect the blue-collar ethic, which sees them through the tough times they face here. That said the real surprise here is Joseph Gordon-Levit (TV's "Third Rock From the Son") as Nix. Levit manages to imbue the character with enough naivete to make him almost likable. Then he shows you the guy's dark side in a horrific convenience store shoot out sequence. The scene establishes that no one is safe around this guy and puts Levit on equal ground with the seasoned Rourke.
This is definitely worth seeing though the Weinstein Brothers blew it by not having faith that the film would do well in theaters. Shame on them but at least they got the film made.
Best Line: "My kid brother is dead. You remind me of him. He was a stupid guy."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.