The Silencer (1999)


The Silencer
(1999)- * * *

Directed by: Robert Lee

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Terrence Kelly, Brennan Elliott, Michael St. John Smith, and Gabrielle Miller

Jason Wells (Elliott) is a young FBI agent in Chicago. His father was also a G-Man, and Wells feels he has something to prove. Sensing this, his boss Neal Donovan (Kelly), sends him on a dangerous mission: fake his own death, then re-emerge as Jason Black, a ponytailed "greaseball" (he's called that numerous times) assigned to get close to Quinn Simmons (Dudikoff), an expert in assassinations. The worldly Simmons takes the neophyte Black under his wing. This is all in the lead-up to the planned assassination of presidential candidate Senator Cayton (Smith). What at first appears to be a simple job soon goes off the rails and Jason Wells is caught in a quagmire of lies, deceits, divided loyalties, and other twists and turns. Oh, and by the way, Quinn Simmons's nickname is THE SILENCER. Who will get silenced...forever?

Not to bury the lede (surprisingly, that is how you spell "lede" in this context) but The Silencer was directed by Robert Lee, who also directed...wait for it...Crackerjack 2 (1997)! But, knowing that information, you might think The Silencer would be a lot of silly fun. It turns out that Mr. Lee must have a lot of range as a director, because The Silencer is much more serious-minded than the classic Hostage Train that featured Judge Rein-hold. If you're wondering why I put in that dash, just check out the box art.

While not a slam-bang 100% actionfest - because it wasn't trying to be - The Silencer is more in the "paranoid thriller" mold initated in the 70's by the likes of The Conversation and The Parallax View (both 1974) but continued on into the DTV era by outings such as Sabotage (1996) or Hidden Assassin (1995). The plot strand of an older assassin showing a younger one the ropes is very reminiscent of The Mechanic (1972). The word "Mechanic" is even used.

Thankfully, The Silencer is better-written than the usual DTV fare at this point in time. You care about the characters and what's going on. The way history was woven into the plot was unique and added depth to the proceedings. We get some classic "FBI exposition" as Donovan and Wells look at slides in the beginning of the film, laying the groundwork of everything to come - but it isn't as cut and dried as you might think.

What also helps things a lot are the actors - fan-favorite Dudikoff as the unsmiling villain (or is he?) here was given an atypical role and it worked great. He had previously worked with director Lee on Cyberjack AKA Virtual Assassin (1995). I guess he'll always be some sort of an Assassin to Mr. Lee. Dudikoff even does a slow, gravelly voice to underscore how serious he is, which inevitably reminded us of what Steve Guttenberg did with his voice in Airborne (1998). It's a lot less silly here, of course, but the similarities are there nonetheless.

Terence Kelly as Donovan was also wonderful, and Brennan Elliott put in a lot of great energy as the lead. Gabrielle Miller as Quinn's love interest (?) is presumably here because at the last minute maybe the filmmakers realized that there were no women in the movie, and it was decided that one was needed. If that was indeed the case, that's not her fault of course.

There's a killer car stunt towards the end of the film, and periodically there will be a blow-up or maybe some shooting or fighting just to keep this in the action realm just enough. But it fits in with the DTV action genre perfectly well in any case, and thanks to the aforementioned scripting, plotting, and acting, manages to stand out amongst its competitors. 

And here's a pro tip to anyone out there who's thinking of running for office: don't publicly threaten to end government secrets and corruption. Wait until AFTER you're elected to do that. Announcing to the world that you're going to end an evil cabal is very upsetting to said evil cabal. In the interest of your own life, just keep your evil-cabal hatred to yourself. Final thought before the wrap-up: While ostensibly set in Chicago, this was obviously shot in Canada. Just sayin' is all.

Not only was The Silencer a pleasant surprise - it could have been so much more generic, but thankfully it isn't - it likely is one of the best DTV movies from 1999, if not the entirety of the late-90's/early 2000's period. Recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum!

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