The misbegotten Elmore Leonard adaptation Killshot slunk onto video-store shelves followed by an oily trail of bad press, toxic buzz, post-production tomfoolery, and abandoned theatrical release dates. Filming began in 2005, but after disastrous test screenings, the filmmakers went back to the drawing board. They cut out an entire subplot involving Johnny Knoxville as a corrupt deputy, and whittled the film down to a mere 84 minutes. It was all for naught: The film slipped in and out of a few theaters in early 2009 en route to a DVD burial.

A pre-Wrestler Mickey Rourke stars as a moody, enigmatic half-Native American hitman who prides himself on his professionalism. His life and career enter a downward spiral when he unwisely hooks up with hotheaded punk Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has an itchy trigger finger, an explosive temper, and an unstoppable case of the jabbers. When Rourke fails to kill real-estate agent Diane Lane after she witnesses him carrying out his dirty business, Lane and her estranged husband (Thomas Jane, as a Thomas Jane-like nonentity in a nothing role) enroll in the Witness Relocation Program, where they discover that pretending to be happily married doubles as excellent couples therapy.

The casting of Rourke and Gordon-Levitt as mismatched hitmen and Rosario Dawson as Gordon-Levitt’s Elvis-and-convict-loving girlfriend promises more than it delivers. Rourke lends a sad gravity and inner calm to his career criminal, but he and Gordon-Levitt—who is way too convincing as a manic, know-nothing jackass who pollutes everything he comes into contact with—are locked in a series of dull clichés: the hitman out for one last big score before he retires, and the seasoned old pro who takes a wild young buck under his wing and lives to regret it. For an adaptation of work by an oft-filmed writer whose books ooze personality and dark humor, Killshot is distressingly lifeless and dour. That has a lot to do with the bizarre decision to hand over the reins to director John Madden (of Proof, Shakespeare In Love, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin fame) and Jude/The Wings Of The Dove screenwriter Hossein Amini. Instead of elevating the material, these arthouse veterans drain it of any remaining vestiges of pulpy energy. The editors have cut so much out that little remains beyond a joyless battle of wills between the obnoxious (Gordon-Levitt) and the terminally bland (Lane and Jane). Rubberneckers looking for a train wreck will be as disappointed as Leonard fans looking for a gritty, engaging yarn. Killshot is worse than bad: It’s boring.

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