Richard Donner is an accomplished director with many hits to his credit and even more accolades, but he’s the wrong choice for Assassins. Working from a screenplay by (unknown at the time) the Wachowski siblings, with a re-write from scribe Brian Helgeland, Donner’s traditional approach to the high-tech, new-age, action picture is sorely lacking verve and energy. It makes you wonder what the final product would have resembled if the Wachowski’s had been handed the reigns on the film? Assassins is a strangely low-key affair that has an air of melancholy it’s unable to shed.
Respected assassin Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone) is at the end of his decades-long career. His latest contracted job is hijacked by a rival hired gunman Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas). The younger and murderous minded Bain is an absolute wildman. Rath decides to take one last job to protect a cyber thief (Julianne Moore) before disappearing into civilian life. Haunted by an event from his past, Rath begins to fall for his mark while keeping her from being killed by Bain.
The opening action set-piece runs on for nearly twenty minutes and its visual dullness mixed with the flatness of the performances, score, and sound design renders the events onscreen ineffectual. Stallone and Banderas have two scenes in which they come face-to-face. Their chemistry is magnetic and the film springs to life during these brief passages. The same can not be said of the pairing of Stallone and Juliane Moore, who is totally mis-cast as the cyber-criminal. The Wachowski’s would find their success with The Matrix, it’s always been fascinating to think of them directing this material with different stars. The film runs about 2 hours and 15 minutes which is 30 minutes over length for the story on-screen.
Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore