Friday 14 April 2023

"Assassin Club" (Guardian 13/04/23)

Assassin Club

Dir: Camille Delamarre. With: Henry Golding, Daniela Melchior, Sam Neill, Noomi Rapace. 111 mins. Cert: 15

Some films don’t globetrot so much as globelurch and globeveer, steered by creatives wilding out on Expedia after a heavy night on the Kestrel. Pinging haphazardly and often nonsensically about Central and Eastern Europe, this rubbishy runaround sees French action specialist Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions, The Transporter Refuelled) emerging from sometime mentor Luc Besson’s shadow, for better and worse. Liberated from Besson’s more questionable fetishes but also untethered from a healthy line of credit, the results never rise above cheap, generic multiplex filler. Everyone’s travelling economy, with 2023’s tattiest script stuffed way down, out of shame, in their carry-on.

After doing for an assailant sicced on him and his schoolmarm girlfriend, Henry Golding’s nice-guy assassin Morgan learns he’s been unknowingly entered in what’s effectively a hitpersons’ Champions League. On the positive side: it provides the perfect opportunity to deploy the improbably wide-ranging personal surveillance network he maintains in his shabby digs. Sam Neill is Morgan’s urbane handler, found tickling the harpsichord at one choice juncture; Noomi Rapace occupies a botched dual role, requiring her to alternate between big specs as the head of some security agency and blonde frosting as the most vicious of Morgan’s rivals. The casting is simpler elsewhere: grizzled ex-doormen abound.

The action is functional enough, even as it abides by combat principles worn out by the later Bourne movies. The obvious limitation is that Delamarre remains clueless faced with any scene that doesn’t involve guns, cars or fisticuffs; his best guess is to screw in eight gaudy lightbulbs, go handheld, and hope his actors can rescue him. (They’re sadly preoccupied with some of the most leaden dialogue ever transmitted in Dolby surround.) No attention whatsoever has been paid to the detail: the fingers severed to confirm kills have all the solidity of Percy Pigs, while one website headline looks like it was knocked out on the Notes app thirty seconds before camera rolled. Your appreciation for the artistry of the John Wick series redoubles frame by crummy frame.

Assassin Club opens in selected cinemas from today.

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