02 h 12 m
Richard Donner
Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore
"Ageless Tension in a Duel of Shadows: A ‘90s Tech-Noir That Still Surprises"

Posted Friday, Nov 24, 2023 92

In a game of cat-and-mouse where bullets and wits are interchanged seamlessly, `Assassins` puts an aging hitman, Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone), against a young, ruthless challenger, Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas), in a deadly struggle that redefines the essence of a modern-day gladiator fight. When a mysterious hacker, Electra (Julianne Moore), enters the fray with a coveted disc, Rath must confront his past while charting a future amidst a tangle of deception and betrayal.

The film deftly weaves themes of isolation, morality, and identity within an action framework. `Assassins` plays with the tone, mixing a sense of introspection with bursts of adrenaline-fueled encounters — a balancing act that reflects its characters` internal struggles as much as their external confrontations.

Stallone`s portrayal of Rath is one of measured stillness, a stark contrast to Banderas`s edgy and charismatic Bain. Moore provides a compelling third dimension to the binary opposition with her enthusiastic but grounded Electra. The central trio`s dynamic is the film`s backbone — a dance between mentor, apprentice, and wildcard.

Richard Donner`s tight direction is evident throughout the film, confidently guiding the narrative with a steady hand. Donner ensures the tension is palpable, winding it like a coil that threatens to snap — always keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.

Assassins movie review

The score by Mark Mancina and Marvin Hamlisch complements the film’s various moods and elevates the sense of urgency that ripples through the narrative, crafting an auditory landscape that is subtle yet impactful.

The cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond pairs shadows and light to create a stylistic visual palette. It lends the film a slick, glass-and-concrete aesthetic that makes the urban backdrop a character in its own right.

The production design deserves credit for crafting an environment that encapsulates the tech-noir aspect of the `90s, complete with gadgets and interfaces that feel retrofuturistic through a contemporary lens.

While subtler than blockbusters of its era, the special effects in `Assassins` enhance the narrative without ever overpowering it. The effects are employed judiciously to ensure that the focus remains on the characters and their chess-like movements.

Assassins movie review

The editing is brisk, and purposeful, maintaining the film`s pulse. It artfully intertwines timelines and perspectives, keeping viewers guessing while never confusing them.

The pacing of `Assassins` mirrors its protagonists — calculated and deliberate. Each scene deliberately propels the story while allowing the audience to absorb the intricate character play.

The dialog, courtesy of the Wachowski siblings’ script polish, is sharp with a philosophical underpinning that adds weight to the characters` interactions, giving shape to their ideological conflicts.

While the film excels in deliberate pacing, it does at times veer towards being sluggish, threatening to disconnect audience engagement. Moreover, the 90s tech can seem dated to modern viewers, potentially diluting the film`s otherwise timeless cat-and-mouse intrigue.

‘Assassins’ remains a film that makes one ponder the rules of engagement in a world of shadows. The emotional undercurrent, fused with surgical action sequences, etches itself into memory. It fights through its own slower moments and emerges as an enduring portrait of rivalry and redemption. An experience that resonates as a contemplative reflection on the lives of those who exist to deal in death`s trade.