Assassin's Run (2013)

Assassin's Run (2013)- * * *

AKA: White Swan

Directed by: Robert Crombie and Sofya Skya

Starring: Sofya Skya, Christian Slater, Angus Macfayden, and Cole Hauser

AKA: White Swan

Maya Letinskaya  (Skya) seems to have the perfect life: she’s a highly-trained professional ballerina, her husband Michael (Slater) is a high-powered businessman, and they have a young daughter and a beautiful family together. However, things take a 180-degree pirouette when some evil Russian (duh) gangsters eliminate Michael, kidnap the daughter, and send Maya to prison on a trumped-up charge. With baddies hot on her trail, Maya penches on the only training she knows, and taps into the awesome power of BALLET. Using the discipline, athleticism, and flexibility she previously used Swan Lakin’ it up to now do high kicks and spins on her opponents, Maya must now prepare for the ultimate performance - saving her daughter’s life, as well as her own. Will she show us all the true meaning of MOSCOW HEAT? (er, sorry. Wrong movie.) Will the ASSASSINS go on a RUN to find Maya? (Yeah, we know it makes no sense. But neither does the title for this movie).

The Russian Ballet. Direct-to-Video action movies. Why it took until 2013 for anyone to put these two things together is anyone’s guess. Much like the McDLT - which, as you will recall, kept the hot side hot and the cool side cool - Assassins Run features an unorthodox combination of textures and temperatures and manages to make everything come out well and satisfying. For the DTV world, this is a classy and stylish gangster drama that goes full-on action after a certain point(e). 

Sofya Skya - that’s Sofya Andreevna Shchetinina-Arzhakovskaya to you - will certainly be one to watch going forward. Not only is she an accomplished ballerina and star of the movie, she also co-directed it and sang the end credits song, “Before You Slipped Away” (a duet with a guy named John Kahn, for those keeping track). Surely someone as multitalented as this has a bright future, and we look forward to what she does next. Helping her out is a true fan favorite, Christian Slater. He spends a lot of his time on the phone, but, then again, with his inimitable voice, wouldn’t you want to talk to him on the phone? We also have Angus Macfadyen on board to provide further interest, and Cole Hauser, who, in this movie at least, looks alarmingly like noted/forgotten-about boil on society, Spencer Pratt.

Sure, after about 45 minutes there’s a bit of a lull, but that’s a common problem, and it picks up shortly thereafter. On the whole we found Assassins Run to be original and refreshingly different. Yes, there’s the time honored shooting, fights, and it becomes a prison movie at one point, but we just loved the idea of a ballerina who uses her lifetime of training in that art who then turns it into a Martial Art. Maybe it’s something about the Russian psyche that that rings true for them. To ironically paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff, “What a country!” (if reading this silently to yourself, make sure you say that in a jovial yet thick Russian accent). 

Like us, you’ll surely become Sofya Skya fans after watching this. After all, it is all about her in the end. Despite the great Christian Slater, this wouldn’t be much of a movie if it wasn’t for the presence of Skya. So be sure to check her out giving the baddies the true meaning of batterie as she plies all over their beaten-up bodies. We found the experience winning, not to mention culturally enhancing.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


The Chaos Factor (2000)

The Chaos Factor (2000)- * *1\2

Directed by: Terry Cunningham

Starring: Antonio Sabato Jr., Fred Ward, Sean Kanan, Susie Park, and R. Lee Ermey

Jack Poynt (Sabato Jr.) is a military man who specializes in ‘demo excavation’, in other words, sweeping mines out of Cambodia and saving the local villagers. Jack Poynt’s life changes forever when he comes across an Army medic’s diary that was written during the Vietnam War. 

It turns out that a fellow soldier named Maxwell Camden (Ward) committed all sorts of wartime atrocities. Now, in the present day, Camden is a big muckty-muck in the government and he will go to great lengths to stop the diary from going public - including sending his goons (one of which is Sean Kanan) out to torture and murder people. Along the way, Jack crosses paths with a ruthless, beautiful female assassin that seems like she belongs in another movie named Kim (Park). But the two will have to team up to defeat Camden and the baddies before a big arms deal goes down between China and Vietnam...and time is running out. Will Jack make his Poynt? Find out...

The Chaos Factor is kind of a middle-of-the-road affair. On the one hand, it’s a PM production, so there are plenty of car chases, explosions, shooting scenes, and a decent amount of action. It’s also not overly junky in the production values department and there is some nice cinematography from Jacques Haitkin. 

On the other hand, it’s supposed to be a serious-minded drama at other times - a governmental thriller with the haunting echoes of the Vietnam conflict infusing it all. Not that that would be a bad thing, of course, but all the drama is undercut somewhat by the odd choice to have footage from Seagal’s Marked For Death (1990) all over the action scenes. Tip to filmmakers: if you’re going for seriousness, don’t resort to Seagal footage spliced into the movie.

Adding insult to injury, the footage doesn’t match very well. You don’t have to be particularly eagle-eyed to know when we’ve whiplashed into suddenly watching a car chase from Marked For Death. Presumably, if you’re watching the Chaos Factor, you’ve already seen Marked For Death - has anyone watched them the other way around? Regardless, this was the directorial debut of Terry Cunningham, so perhaps we should cut him a bit of slack, almost like you would for someone learning on the job. Thankfully, Cunningham had good people around him like Haitkin and Fred Ward who could dress things up significantly. 

We enjoyed most of the scenes with Susie Park, mainly because that’s when the movie becomes out-and-out action. Sean Kanan strongly resembles James Spader, and fan favorite R. Lee Ermey is underutilized...but would you believe he was cast as an Army Colonel? I know, wonders never cease. 

That brings us to Sabato Jr., who is a solid leading man for these types of things...though it should be noted that (in this movie at least) he has a tramp stamp. We don’t believe we’ve ever seen a male action hero with a lower-back tattoo before. Much like how the Seagal footage undercuts the seriousness of the movie, Sabato Jr.’s tramp stamp undercuts our confidence in him as an action hero. It starts off as Sweepers (1998), becomes Broken Arrow (1996), then becomes No Way Out (1987), then becomes Yes, Madam (1985), all with a dusting of a Steven Segal movie from ten years previous. If this sounds like something you're up for, well here it is. The DTV world in 2000 was a confusing place indeed. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett