Movie Review: Rooker, Willis, Malkovich and Kurylenko shoot it out — “White Elephant”

The old joke that “Assault rifles are for gangsters, and rednecks too lazy to learn to shoot” comes to mind when sitting through the mayhem of “White Elephant,” a cop-hunted-by-hitmen thriller starring a lot of old-in-the-tooth action stars.

This unfortunately-timed bodycount features Bruce Willis, who has to have half his lines dubbed or looped, Eugenio Derbez’s handsome and wooden-as-a-Sequoia son, Tifton, Georgia substituting for the Southwest border country and almost zero non-corrupt police presence evident as larger and larger teams of tac-geared hired killers come after “clean cop” Olga Kurylenko –– and miss.

Seems about right.

Michael Rooker stars as a veteran hired killer with a pretty boy protege (Vadhir Derbez), a mob lawyer (John Malkovich) go-between, an impatient mob boss (Willis) and a dead wife whom he broods over, all the way through the movie.

A gang war involving that boss, the Mexican mafia and “The Russians” is breaking out, and the hitmen find themselves having to “clean up” two cops (Michael Rose and Kurylenko) who saw the sniper school-trained (and tattooed) Carlos (Derbez) after a murder.

She proves to be pretty hard to take out.

Malkovich is here to give Rooker a little lecture on ancient Greek justice. Willis is here to give orders — sometimes in his own voice — “Put a bullet in that b—-‘s head or I’ll put one in yours.

To be fair, he apologizes when Rooker’s character softly demands it. Yeah, “White Elephant” is stupid that way.

And Derbez, playing kind of killer who dresses too flashy to not be noticed and wears his sunglasses into dark houses on night assassinations, is spot-on in one regard — reminding us in almost every scene that he hasn’t the “earned” presence, the skills or the screen charisma to hold his own with the likes of these folks.

Judging from the inane script, the unhurried direction by stuntman-turned-director Jesse V. Johnson, and by the destruction wrought when machine guns tear up cars, houses and people (nothing graphic enough to be “honest), it’s obvious that the budget here went to actors and ordinance.

Rating: Unrated, graphic violence.

Cast: Michael Rooker, Olga Kurylenko, John Malkovich, Vadhir Derbez and Bruce Willis.

Credits: Directed by Jesse V. Johnson, scripted by Jesse V. Johnson, Erik Martinez and Katherine Lee McEwan. An RLJE release.

Running time: 1:32

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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