“White Elephant” is a rather good binge-watchable action thriller that has all the necessary elements in the right quantities, not to mention a bland Bruce Willis. However, Willis is completely sidelined in the film by our protagonist, the very cool Michael Rooker. The story isn’t new but is able to hold on to the attention it seeks. The best thing about “White Elephant” is that it does not try to philosophize about the protagonist’s character. This is something many films like this often tend to do, and in the process, overdo themselves and lose the sense of reality and urgency that should come with the story. Overall, it is a nice attempt at showing a hitman being brought face to-face with his conscience.
‘White Elephant’ Plot Summary
Arnold Solomon, a real estate magnate who has ties with organized crime, has just made a deal with the Russians. To avoid any kind of intervention from his competition, Luis Velasquez, of the Mexican Cartel, he wants his best-friend-cum-hitman Gabriel Tancredi, AKA Gabe, to go and negotiate with him. Gabe sends his trainee, Carlos Garcia, to finish the job. But Velasquez is in no mood for negotiations, so Carlos kills him. He is, however, compromised by Officers Vanessa Flynn and Walter Koschek, who were keeping a tab on Luis Velasquez from their car parked a distance from Velasquez’s address. They notice Carlos carrying a case inside Velasquez and get back in his car. A second later, Velasquez’s whole office explodes. Carlos manages to escape. Arnold, after the news of two witnesses reaches him, wants Gabe to kill them both. Gabe and Carlos kill Walter Koschek at his place. Carlos brings a few friends one night to kill Vanessa at her home. She manages to escape, but not before recognizing one of the gunners as a familiar face from work, Lanier.
She tracks down Lanier’s partner, Daley, and tries to find out more about the people who almost killed her. Daley denies knowing anything, but after Vanessa leaves, he calls up Carlos, who wants him to find her and get her address. Meanwhile, Arnold is not happy with the way things are and insists on getting rid of Vanessa immediately.
Vanessa decides to check on Koschek at his house but finds blood marks on the walls. She realizes that he is dead and reaches out to a friend of hers who helps her find out more about the guy in question, Carlos. With nowhere to go, not even the police station, she takes refuge in a motel.
Gabe gets hold of Vanessa’s file and finds out that she is a decorated cop. But the one thing that hits him is her birth date, April 2nd. It is the same as his wife, Alexandria’s, Meanwhile, Arnold and his wife are attacked at a restaurant by two gunmen. His wife dies while Arnold is wounded. It seems that the attack was revenge by the Mexicans for the killing of Luis Velasquez. But Arnold thinks that it was made to look like the Mexicans did it, but it was a step by the Russians. He tells Gabe to finish Vlady, the head of the Russian mob. Gabe is against it as it will spark another war but Arnold is adamant, the death of his wife getting the better of his thinking. However, as told, Gabe and Carlos visit Vlady and kill him. But Gabe realizes that things are going the wrong way. He collects his wife’s urn and decides to put an end to his job.
Carlos is able to track Vanessa’s location and, after being unable to reach Gabe, attacks her with his team of gunmen. But this time, it is Gabe who saves her, gets her in his car, and brings her to his home, which is more like a “fortress.” He tells her of the promise he made to his wife about leaving this job, going to Africa, and putting his talents to good use, protecting the elephants. Knowing that Arnold will send his people to kill them, Gabe and Vanessa have no other way but to fight till the end. What follows is a huge gunfight that ends with Carlos and all the other gunmen dead. Gabe gives his wife’s necklace to Vanessa and goes to Africa. And as fate would have it, Arnold too is killed, not by Gabe, but by the Mexicans, revenge for Velasquez.
Gabe and His Code
Gabe is the main character who undergoes the change that divides the film into two parts. From the beginning of the film itself, it is made clear that Gabe may be working for Arnold, but he doesn’t blindly follow orders. When Glen Follet tells him that “we’re alike,” he clearly states that they are nothing alike. This is something that takes shape slowly and steadily as the film progresses. Given that Gabe is a professional, he has a moral code; a reminder of his time as a marine. Another example of this is when he makes Arnold take back his disrespectful words during the meeting after Carlos is unable to kill Vanessa. What’s interesting is that respect is a crucial element in the underworld as well, or so we have learned from movies. So, if we are to measure the quality of belonging to the underworld using respect as the measuring tape, Gabe is well above Arnold. His demeanor is clearly visible when he is talking to other people. This is perhaps what prevents Vanessa from doubting Gabe, although some more time should have been given to Vanessa regarding Gabe’s generosity. Gabe knows that she has served in the army, and so he has that respect for her as well. But it is not her job that makes him look out for her. It is her date of birth.
Gabe’s wife is no more. And it is clear that he loves her a lot and misses her. He had even promised her that he would leave the job and go to Africa. He has kept her necklace safely and cherishes it every day all the time. But all this has not been able to shake his professionalism in what he does. He is, at the end of it all, a cold-blooded killer. And the film establishes this by showing him and Carlos chopping Koschek into pieces, putting the pieces in suitcases and burying them in the ground. Also, there is a hint of his rage, be it when he goes to kill Vlady or when he makes Arnold take back his words. These are all the negative aspects of his character.
‘White Elephant’ Ending Explained- Why Doesn’t Gabe Kill Vanessa?
In Vanessa’s file, Gabe finds out that she shares her date of birth with his wife. He cannot help but let it affect him. It is a common thing to associate people who share their birthdays. For Gabe, this association is way more personal than it should have been, since the very woman she is trying to kill shares her birthday with the love of his life. Yes, it sounds a bit too much. But look at it like this: remember when Batman was about to kill Superman in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice but he stopped the moment he heard Superman pronounce the name “Martha”? It’s a similar kind of feeling. These two are different things but both root from the same feeling i.e. love. And it was only a matter of time before Gabe gave in to his emotions, which was further propelled by Arnold’s immature behavior to put lives at risk, which is something totally against his nature. Here, it can also be said that perhaps the only reason why he does what he does is that he had no idea what else to do with his life. His wife died of cancer long ago, and he decided to do what he does best, which is to protect. However, all that he needed was a sign that would make him understand that he was still the man that his wife believed him to be. And that sign was Vanessa. Sure enough, at the end of the film, Gabe gives his wife’s necklace to Vanessa. As long as the necklace was in his possession, he knew he had to protect it. But now that it was with Vanessa, it was in its rightful place. Also, it symbolizes embracing the truth and thus letting go of the pain. And that is what he does when he spreads Alexandria’s ashes in Africa, the very place where he promised his wife he would go and serve for good.
“White Elephant” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Jesse V. Johnson.