Assassin Club


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Assassin Club
"If it has a saving grace it's that it's not two hours long, and one hopes that those involved had some nice evenings out in Turin while filming."

I'd thought, going into Assassin Club, that the tale of a hitman who discovers that he has to kill seven others before he gets killed himself might be riffing on Robert Sheckley's The Seventh Victim (filmed as The 10th Victim) or The Running Man or Fight Club or the latter John Wick films or almost anything else. In part that's because one doesn't expect a startling amount of originality from a film that seems to be named after a homicidal chocolate bar.

In retrospect it was wrong to hope for even that much. If it has a saving grace it's that it's not two hours long, and one hopes that those involved had some nice evenings out in Turin while filming. That's Turin which is called upon to double for other cities, albeit with the aid of some stock establishing footage. While Glasgow might often be Gotham or New York, while Toronto might often be Geneva or Chicago, Turin is less well known as a proxy metropolis. Even less so when tasked with impersonating Prague, Lubjana, Paris, Rome, Lisbon, Porto, Zvenica, and the bustling bit of Barcelona that is bounded by empty fields and pickup trucks.

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If there had been different filters or soundtracks for them it might have worked, heck I still believe Dogville is a real place and all I've ever seen of it is marked lines. Shot through a filter somewhere between gritty and murky it adds to a general lack of suspension of disbelief. That doesn't really matter though, because everywhere else goodwill is squandered. The general air of unreality includes a scene involving a fireside chat, one where the flames are CG or at least subsequent video composite, and the orange glow on the actors who were almost certainly probably in the same place at the same time never flickers.

One of those actors is Sam Neill, who spends a lot of time on the telephone with Henry Golding and Noomi Rapace, who each spend quite a bit of time on the telephone with one another and at least some on the blower with Daniela Melchior. Accents wander more widely than the action, I counted surplus to six or seven cities but the distinct dipthongs did double digits. If that alliteration feels like something that should be smooth is noticeably notched then the clumsy cutting of frequent fisticuffs will similarly snag.

Written by Thomas Dunn, whose last feature was 2017's The Body Tree, I found myself laughing at places I knew it was not meant for me to do so. A clumsy (and cliche) declaration of pregnancy caused me to guffaw, so risible was its revelation. I checked for the reaction of the fellow cinemagoer in front of me, who had laughed out loud at the preceding advert for the wobbly-seat splashy nonsense of 4DX, but discovered that the second time they'd left the screening they'd not bothered to come back. There are several moments where it is stupefying that things aren't checked, one ostensibly tense scene involving a bomb and a bathtub draws negative comparisons to both the Lethal Weapon and Indiana Jones franchises, and in what might be a genuine cinematic magic trick one of the films secrets would be less daft if someone were twins.

Camille Delamarre has done some TV, directed Brick Mansions, the English-language remake of District/Banlieue 13 and the fourth Transporter film. That's 'Refuelled' which replaces Jason Statham with Ed Skrein and Ray Stevenson, and is, if anything, less fun than the Transporter TV show. The influence of Luc Besson extends past CVs and sometimes jaw-dropping dialogue, there's also weird gender politics and a shadowy underworld of guns for hire. Those last include neon-lit women holding sniper rifles in motels, though, in what might be progress, there's no bathtub or crying.

If Golding was promised the chance for this to be his John Wick I understand why he grabbed at it with both hands angled to point a pistol awkwardly round a corner. If Sam Neill was told he could deliver a regretful monologue from behind a harpsichord and get paid for the privilege with some Italian sushi thrown in then fair enough. I don't know what Noomi Rapace was offered other than a variety of hair colours, contact lenses, and the chance to wave around a small blue vial but maybe she got to keep all the scenery she chewed. Daniela Melchior's probably best known to English language voices for playing Ratcatcher 2 in The Suicide Squad, and after this it's likely that will continue to be the case. Jimmy Jean-Louis has a recurring role in the Detective Knight films, but those are overshadowed by Bruce Willis' last role(s). While Willis has often been in movies where the bad guys have been to the bad guy shop that role is fulfilled by Claudo Del Falco's Ryder, who has found the page in the catalogue where they've got spiked finger-separating test-tubes for assassination verification.

His serial killer lair appears to have been decorated by copying pseudo-Satanic scripts from band T-shirts and a climactic raid on it features a genuinely puzzling mixture of Alfa Romeo Sedans and Hummer H2s. The lack of fire discipline from the assaulting force isn't so much spectacular as negligent.

There was one moment in it I liked, though seeing it used three times felt a bit forced much like the 'standing up' trick in Lea Whannel's Upgrade. A GoPro or similar fixed to the barrel of the M4/M16-a-likes of a SWAT team, catching their rapid ingress from a reverse angle was a genuinely refreshing perspective. Elsewhere despite my notes using phrases like 'ninja farmhouse' or 'countersniper brawl' the elements (and their combinations) felt like rehashings. There's a revenge plot so convoluted I stopped caring about it, narrative threads that aren't so much cut-off as dropped, and a mythic angle that plays as fast and loose with Egyptian afterlives as various others do with their trigger discipline.

The action might be meant to recall things like Nobody or Atomic Blonde or the ilk, but despite being about hired killers again and again the execution is lacking. There are places where editing that might be meant to convey close quarters combat has the feel of frenetic failure, others where truly abysmal CPR technique endangers life more readily than any amount of gunplay. This tale of double-crosses and hit-men seems dashed off with ill-haste, and, despite the odd spark, isn't worth a shot.

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2023
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Assassin Club packshot
An assassin is given a contract, but finds he is simultaneously the target.
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Director: Camille Delamarre

Writer: Thomas Dunn

Starring: Henry Golding, Daniela Melchior, Sam Neill, Noomi Rapace, Claudio Del Falco, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Anastasia Doaga

Year: 2023

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: US


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