The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Assassination Games (2011)
For those that have Liked the DTVC on Facebook (and if you haven't, the link is over to your left), you've been following the ongoing saga of my trying to get my hands on this movie since it was released over a month ago-- and if you haven't, you've been bugging me and wondering why I haven't gotten to it yet. Netflix, whose DVD service has declined considerably over the past couple months, has simply refused to send me this, relegating it to "Very Long Wait" status. To make matters worse, my local RedBox station also didn't have it. Then last week, by some divine Jean-Claude Van Damme miracle, it was suddenly in stock, and I went today to pick it up. Finally, our long nightmare is over. Also, Ty at Comeuppance Reviews hit this one too.
Assassination Games has JCVD as an assassin that lives a lonely life in Bucharest, though he's very good at what he does. He's hired, unbeknownst to him, by some dirty Interpol agents to kill a Russian mob boss, the idea being that the attempt to kill this mob boss will flush out Scott Adkins, a former Interpol agent whose wife was raped and beaten into a coma by the mobster. Adkins ran off with the Interpol agent's dirty money after the attack, and they want it back. Now Adkins and Van Damme have been brought into an uneasy alliance, neither sure if he can trust the other, but neither sure he can succeed alone.
This had an excellent opening, an even better ending, and a blahfest in the middle. It had some real potential to really work as a stylish, Noirish, old school action flick, it just didn't have enough style to compensate for the lack of substance that padded a lot of the film. I could've lived with the lower action quotient if the scenes in between weren't as long, or if they were cooler. For instance, we've seen the assassin seeking redemption by saving the hooker before, and they didn't do anything new with it, so the fact that each scene dragged on hurt that much more. Adkins and Van Damme had great chemistry, yet they didn't have many scenes together. When they were together at the end, we saw the true potential of what they could do together, and it made it that much more frustrating that we didn't get to see it. As much as I wanted to like it, Assassination Games didn't work for me.
Usually I devote this paragraph to the film's main Hall of Famer, but I'm going to wait on that for the next paragraph, and instead get into where I thought this could've worked. As I was watching it, I thought "had Nikkatsu had this script in the 60s, they would've given it to Seijun Suzuki, and he would've turned it into a Criterion classic." I think the first thing he would've done is cut 15 to 20 minutes, turning it into a 75-80 minute movie. You'd be surprised how much we don't need to know that a movie maker thinks is so essential (and when you look at the deleted scenes, you can see that there was even more they thought we needed, and were mercifully spared). From there's it's all about style. Keep the modern action scenes, and even keep the frequency of them, because we don't need as many if it's stylish enough. There were some spectacular sets, meaning any scene is already halfway to being cool. If we had some slicker outfits, more suits-- black with white shirts-- more smoking, and more uptempo music, it would've gone a long way. Keep the Van Damme and the hooker redemption thing, but make it quicker, short scenes that go straight to the point, not dragged out and killing the pacing of the movie. This could've been one of the best DTV action movies we've seen in a while, but it was crushed from its own weight.
All right, now for Van Damme. First and foremost, no buttcheeks, no love scene, in fact, he wasn't a good lover at all. This was huge for me that Van Damme could play an emotionally dissociative character like that-- and that he'd want to play that character. He really could have pulled off the Jo Shishido gangster/hit man character had this movie given him the full license too. Unfortunately, while they did a good job with him and the hooker next door, they made the scenes drag on too long, and the payoff wasn't there at the end with the way that situation was resolved. I think we saw with JCVD that Van Damme has much more range than we'd given him credit for, and while this doesn't give him enough material to work with, it gives him some, and it's good to see him run with it. Also, his son and daughter are in this, the son as an Interpol agent, and the daughter as Atkins's comatose wife-- don't we feel old that his children are old enough to play adults in movies?
Speaking of Atkins, he was good, but again, the role was too blah for what he could've done. It was too focused on what happened with his wife, and not focused enough on how cool and charismatic he is. Not to mention, they gave him some pretty lackluster outfits-- seriously, mix in a suit or two. One positive though, beyond the few scenes that weren't his character being blah, this movie let him use his natural English accent, which was excellent. I have never understood why English actors are ever cast as Americans and forced to affect American accents. We as Americans love English accents, it's a plus for us, let them use them. Luke Goss, Bruce Payne, Scott Atkins, what have you, don't make them affect American accents-- I beg you.
Yes, that is JCVD dressed as a hipster. It was his disguise for his first hit in the opening scene-- which was fantastic by the way. Tell me that's not a movie that has to be made, Van damme as a hipster. And I'm not saying it to make fun of Van Damme, I'm saying it to make fun of hipsters. Can you see him in a coffee shop, with that hair and those glasses, sporting a gray V-neck T-shirt and a scarf, reading Bukowski or David Foster Wallace or something-- what do hipsters read?-- extolling the virtues of Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter III, going out for a PBR at an Irish themed pub later. Is that what hipsters do? All that just seems hipsterish. They like Twin Peaks too, don't they? I'd have to do some research, but this is the movie that has to be made.
This is a disappointment, mainly because it had the potential to be something so great. I guess, based on the scenes they cut, I should be thankful it was as parsimonious as it was, but even with the edits, it was still too bulky in the middle, and that weighed down what could've been a really stylish, Noirish, modern DTV actioner. There were some positives to take away with Van Damme and Atkins though, so if you're a fan of either, there's a lot to be optimistic about.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1436568/