Directed by: Ernie Barbarash
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins
"If I don't feel, am I really alive?"
Vincent Brazil (Van Damme) is a rather stoic hitman. Roland Flint (Adkins) is also a hitman. Both men have as their latest target one Polo (Kaye), a ruthless murderer, torturer and drug runner. Naturally, at first Flint and Roland don’t get along, but they come together because of their common goal of killing Polo. Both have different reasons for wanting this: Brazil’s is pure business, but Flint has much more personal motivations. Who will win the ASSASSINATION GAMES?
We really, really wanted to like this movie. We gave it a ton of slack. We had high hopes. But the simple fact is, unfortunately, Assassination Games just isn’t that great. It’s not offensively BAD per se, but it’s so unbelievably cliched, and is so predictable, and without so much as a wink to the audience, it grates on the viewer. If there isn’t one speck of originality, and there are cliches in EVERY scene, and it’s totally paint by numbers, that’s one thing. But the movie takes itself so seriously, you have to wonder if the filmmakers knew just how hugely cliched it was, or if they actually thought it was original. In fact, in one scene alone, they manage to fit in three classic cliches: “He’s the best”, “No loose ends”, and “No more mistakes”. I would say they were doing it to save time, but this movie is overlong, so it can’t be that.
To be fair, there are some cool moments, which include the “Auto-gun” thingy (not to be confused with the President’s Auto-pen, who I’m told is mounting an election bid in 2012), and Scott Adkins gives an admirably non-phoned-in performance, but the movie has that modern, washed-out, green look that so many movies have had in the 2000’s. That in itself is an irritating cliche, as if normal film doesn’t exist. And when it’s announced on screen in the beginning of the movie, “Bucharest, Romania”, we thought, “do they even have to say this any more?” Isn’t it just kind of assumed at this point?
Plus there are some stupid CGI gun muzzle flashes, as if THEY didn’t exist prior to 2011. Is it really easier to do it that way? Do they think audiences like seeing Playstation 1-style graphics horribly mutilated into a piece of film? Why is that somehow BETTER? Can anyone answer this?
What’s funny is Van Damme is so Damme wooden in this movie, he makes Don "The Dragon" Wilson look like Klaus Kinski. But Van Damme was a producer on this film, and usually in his co-produced movies he cares, so it can’t be a matter of not caring, it’s just a hilarious choice of woodenness. The power team of Adkins and Van Damme is out in force once again after the far superior The Shepherd (2008), and if you have to see one Van Damme/Adkins team-up, that would be the one. Interestingly, in The Shepherd, Van Damme has a pet bunny, and in Assassination Games, he has a pet turtle. Moving on...
I’m surprised it took us to this point in the review to mention this, as it’s pretty important, as well as evident, but this movie is pretty much a carbon copy of The Mechanic (2011) with Statham. We can’t list all the similarities here for space reasons, but let’s just say, if you do a double feature, watch the Mechanic first. You may get a feeling of Deja Van Vu...
As much as we wish it could go in the Van Damme win pile, sadly it cannot. Adkins tries hard to rescue the sinking ship, but he can’t. Only Van Damme or Adkins fans should play this Game.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett