31 Days of Action: Day 18 - Assassination Games

Right after The Hit List wrapped up on Netflix, it recommended that I check out this 2011 action thriller starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins. I hadn’t planned on this one but I’ve heard lots of good things about Scott Adkins (Ninja II was certainly quite awesome so the reputation seems justified) so I hit play and we were off. It was either that or get up and do stuff, and most any movie is always going to win over that.

So here we have Van Damme and Adkins as two hit men. Adkins is out of the game but some dirty cops who used to pay him are scared he’s going to out them and their dirtiness so they want to set it up that he Van Damme kill each other so they release this drug dealer from prison who is responsible for putting Adkin’s wife into a coma and sure enough Adkins comes after him but also Van Damme comes after him as he wants the money for the contract that’s on the drug dealers head so eventually they team up to take down the drug dealer and the people who seem to want them both dead. Plot summarized!

One common complaint I’ve heard numerous times about direct to DVD movies is that many of them are filmed in Eastern Europe which causes them to run together and become interchangeable. I’ve also heard as a result of this, many of them come off as cold, drab and generic. I hadn’t really encountered that before but now I think I get it. The entire setting of this movie does come off as a bit lifeless and for some reason they sucked all of the colour out of the picture so it’s all this weird sepia tone and I really did not care for this approach at all. Yes it’s a pretty dour movie in tone but come man how about even just a little bit of colour to liven things up around here?

Something else to note is that this is far less an action movie than it is a dramatic thriller with the occasional bout of action. You do get to see Van Damme and Adkins fight though only one time and it’s a brief sequence. Adkins does get to occasionally show off his fighting skills as well but again, it’s always very quick. There are no elaborately choreographed fights on display here. There are usually just a couple of guys to dispatch which Adkins always handles quickly and efficiently. What’s here is done well, shot clearly and well edited, but I still can’t help but wish there was a bit more action in a movie that teams up these two particular actors.

Thankfully the more dramatic stuff works pretty well as they are portraying interesting characters. Van Damme’s character is more of a prick than you might expect. In an early scene, he saves a prostitute who is being beaten by her pimp but it’s not a heroic gesture, he just hates that the noise of it is distracting him from his violin practice. Eventually yes she does managed to tear down his walls and get him to be a little more human but for the most part he plays a pretty closed off jerk and I always kind of appreciate when an action star goes that route. There is a very blunt analogy for him using his pet turtle that refuses to come out of his shell, but I also always enjoy it when action stars have random pets so I’m willing to let that one slide.

Adkin’s character is a little more one note as he is mostly just a dude who is out for revenge but you certainly can’t say that his revenge isn’t completely justified. The more you see about the character’s back story and the reason he is so god damn mad, the more you really want for him to succeed at murdering everyone involved. He and Van Damme do make for a good team and I would be absolutely up for them teaming up again, perhaps in something a little more light next time.

I know I’ve already touched on this a couple of times here but it’s worth repeating that this is a very dour movie that is certainly not going to leave you too charged up. Nothing usually works out great for anybody (except Van Damme’s turtle actually) and there is hardly any humour or moments of levity throughout the whole thing. There’s rape, brutal murder and a bunch of sad people being very sad. Hell even the ending doesn’t give you the positive resolution you would perhaps expect. There’s nothing wrong of course with an action movie playing it straight, just worth mentioning that this one is not going to take it easy on the viewer.

This is a pretty short review but I really don’t think I have a whole lot more to say about this one. It was a decent movie that was light on action but made up for it with interesting characters. Hopefully it’s not the last team-up that we see between Van-Damme and Adkins as they work well together and it would be great to see them in a different vehicle that perhaps played up their fighting capabilities a little more. If this is the only collaboration that we get, then at the very least it’s a pretty good one.