Killer Elite has little—well, just about nothing—in common with Sam Peckinpah's 1975 movie of the same name (plus a "the"). Except for some important elements:
The Machismo-meter. The 1975 movie had James Caan and Robert Duvall. This one has Jason ("When-Will-Someone-Realize-I-Should-Play-Doc-Savage?") Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro. All of them get to have actual characters to work with—plus lots and lots of steely resolve and laser-precise rage. There is almost something French—Jean Gabin or Reno-styled—about their cool under fire. Genuine smoking pleasure.
The pace: The new one feels like a great '70s movie, willing to take its time—while never stopping, standing still, or sleeping on the job. Things just move along, but without haste. Everything is watched carefully and fully.
The plot: At once simple and subtle. You don't need to pay attention all the time to every nuance of politics, personal vendetta, and, above all, professional pride; but when you do, you're rewarded with many little touches, both almost-tender and calmly brutal.
Like the recent Drive (also on Instant Play; I'll get to it soon), Killer Elite—although it has more plot—is mostly good in its mood, its consistent dedication to entering the Relatively Intelligent American Action Movie canon.