Movie Review: “Assassins” Is Lifeless And Unexciting


Review by James McDonald

Following the brutal murder of his girlfriend, a timid young man finds himself the unwilling pawn in a bloody power struggle between a dangerous bounty hunter and a ruthless assassin.

“Assassins” tells the story of two rival hit-men, Simon (Andre Tenerelli) and Hargraves (Bill Oberst Jr.), adversaries for many, many years and both with sizable bounties on each of their heads. After Hargraves is assigned a pretty straightforward task, the murder of a woman, he completes the job but overlooks one small detail; the woman’s boyfriend, Christopher (David Pesta), who just happens to see him leave the apartment complex the night of the murder. After having told the police everything he knows, he is later approached by Simon, pretending to be a cop but quickly realizes that he is not one at which point Simon pulls a gun on him and forces him to listen to what he has to say.

He informs Christopher that the man who killed his girlfriend, Hargraves, never leaves loose ends and because Chris got a look at his face, Simon assures him that he will come back in order to finish him off but if they work together, he promises that he will walk away with his life. Naturally, Chris doesn’t have much of an option but as the film evolves, both men begin to wonder just who is playing who. “Assassins” is pretty similar to the 1995 Sylvester Stallone/Antonio Banderas movie of the same name about competing contract killers. With a title like “Assassins”, you would expect some real excitement but sadly, director Michael Bonomo opts instead, for brains over brawn and that is the film’s biggest mistake.

By all means, let the characters exchange some witty repartee via their cell phones, each trying to outsmart the other and prove just who has the biggest balls but in the end, an assassin is a person who has to be good at their job and when the two men finally get their opportunity in a fistfight, unfortunately, we get so many exaggerated close-ups and over-use of the detested shaky-cam, that we have absolutely no idea just what is going on or who is hitting who. Directors Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay both use this gimmick to nauseating effect and by the time their movies are finished, you are no better off than you were in the beginning because you still have no idea what really happened.

The acting, for the most part, was wooden and unrealistic. Andre Tenerelli tries way too hard to be adept and dangerous and sadly comes off as being neither, proving that over-acting is the new acting. David Pesta has no personality whatsoever and during the movie, there were times I wished Simon would just shoot him so we wouldn’t have to endure his monotonous, repetitious performance any longer. The one saving grace of the entire movie, is Bill Oberst Jr., who is eerily reminiscent of a young Jürgen Prochnow. His Hargraves is sinister and vicious but somehow, he manages to remain likable and there are not very many actors out there who are capable of such a feat.

The biggest issue with the film is that at the very end, it throws in a big twist that makes no sense whatsoever. The whole story could have ended in the first twenty minutes but instead, it is dragged out to a ludicrous finale that just doesn’t make sense. I understand sometimes having to suspend disbelief but here, it’s just plain preposterous. Being an independent filmmaker myself for over thirty years, I am a huge admirer and supporter of independent movies in general but when I sit down to review a film, I have to be objective and honest and I feel that with a much better script and much better actors, this movie could have been far-superior but as it stands right now, regrettably, it’s very uninteresting and not very exciting and with a title like “Assassins”, that is a big disappointment.

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James McDonald
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