2 1/2 StarsAssassination Games is another competent yet unspectacular exercise within the confines of the popular and overworked sub-genre of hit-man films. The presence of both Veteran action icon Jean Claude Van Damme (Wake of Death, The Hard Corps) and rising star Scott Adkins (Ninja, Undisputed 3) is undoubtably the main point of interest for fans of this type of fare. Without the charisma and accomplished athleticism of the leading men there would be little to recommend about this average thriller. Think an re-tweaking of the 1995 film Assassins starring Stallone and Banderas and you’ll get the idea. In fairness Games is a better film, the action is well shot and the acting is impressive from Van Damme and Marija Karan here playing a wayward prostitute suffering the wrath of an abusive pimp.
Adkins is Roland Flint a retired assassin whom years prior was instrumental in incarcerating a notorious criminal named Polo. Not before the bad guy and his heathens raped and severely beat Flint’s wife into a coma. After years in prison Polo is now free and Flint wants his revenge. However another assassin (Van Damme) has been hired to take out both Polo and Flint. The picture was obviously shot in Eastern Europe having the same ‘flat’ look that most films from the Romanian production factory have. Director Ernie Barbarash does a good job moving through the story at a nice clip.The action is well done however it must be said that this isn’t the action fest that fans of Adkins or Van Damme have come to expect. It’s a tad more introspective then per the usual for the genre. A sometimes gripping score from Neal Acree really adds to the tone in-turn lending the film a certain cinematic weight that greatly benefits the picture.
As the movie played out it became apparent this was more a vehicle for the considerable talents of Mr. Scott Adkins. Van Damme is relegated to a costarring role and his storyline is nothing we haven’t seen before. It fits into the usual motifs that have well been established throughout the star’s 25 yr. career. He is a cold blooded killer with a sweet spot, a man of violence and fine tastes. For instance after returning home from an assassination Van Damme’s character unwinds by playing the violin. It’s as if he’s returning to the role he honed in 2004s Wake of Death. Adkins has the physicality and looks to make him a big star in the genre but at this point his acting isn’t on par with his fighting skills. Van Damme’s presence and better than average acting ability are evident every time the two appear onscreen together. Assassination Games isn’t on the level that it should be given its talented cast and creative forces, yet it is leagues better than most of the straight-to-DVD garbage tossed at action fans today.
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Kevin Chapman