7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Number One with a Bullet,
This review is from: Assassins  [DVD] (DVD)
After his initial successes on screen with his Rocky and his Rambo series of films, Stallone has sometimes had a hard time of it, trying to keep up his standing in the 1990s with a whole string of hit and miss releases, from the cringe-inducing "Judge Dredd" to films like... this one. I can happily say that "Assassins" is one of his better efforts, and is well worth owning for yourself - and certainly on DVD format.
As the title would suggest, Stallone plays as Robert Rath, a professional contract killer starting to get old. He's looking for one last job before retirement, the big contract that will let him live a quiet life and let him hang up his gun knowing he's number one. But when another killer, Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) takes down one of Rath's targets before he can complete the contact he wastes no time in trying to get even, and it is only Bain's wily instincts that keep him from falling prey to Rath's trap. Both men look toward their next encounter... Now Rath has a new job - to kill a "ghost" - a hacker with no name, address or trace who is trying to sell valuable information to a group of foreign businessmen. But Bain is also offered the job, and when the two realise that they are up against each other again, Rath makes a decision - stop Bain killing the target, who turns out to be a young woman called Electra (Julianne Moore), and find out who double-crossed him.
This is a very well made film; locations are dark and gloomy, and even when there are lots of people around and lots of things happening in the area there is still a feeling of menace, that our protagonists can't let their guard down. There are no awful one-liners that I can recall, the action is well-paced and the script is well-written. This is not a corny film by any means.
The actors themselves have to take much of the credit for the quality of the production. Stallone of course takes top billing, and he manages to prove that he is able to take serious roles without lapsing into "buddy" style ("Tango and Cash" being a prime example of this) or carbon-copy action hero mode. In itself this is quite an achievement, especially when he already has an image. Julianne Moore is, in this film, starting to cut her teeth in the business and really brings life to Electra. She gives Electra real character and you actually give a damn what happen to her, unlike most female leads who just seem to be there to scream, cling to the hero character or just have horrible things happen to them.
But the real star of this film is Antonio Banderas. His character Bain is a real nutter, and I can see elements taken from his role in "Desperado" and perhaps even some elements of Toshiro Mifune ("Seven Samurai") in his performance, and you never know what this crazy guy is going to do next. To be honest, I reckon that Banderas' character Bain would have made an excellent anti-hero in any other film, and you actually feel a bit sorry for him at the end of the fim because you just can't help but like him, even though he kills people. If you had to showcase this actor's work, Assassins would be in in there, no two ways about it.
If you prefer a harder edge to your action films or thrillers, then Assassins is one to watch. However, when ranged against films such as "Leon", "Nikita" and "Ronin" (the very best of the genre, recommended viewing) I'm afraid it doesn't quite cut it, so I can only give it four stars. An excellent film none the less.