Home Video Hovel- Assassin’s Bullet, by David Bax

How Isaac’s Florentine’s Assassin’s Bullet earned itself even the briefest theatrical run is a mystery. That’s not to say that it’s completely worthless. There have certainly been worse films on the big screen this year. It’s simply that everything about it implies it was intended for the direct-to-video track. A generically-named action/thriller shot abroad and starring some respectable actors of mid-level fame, it’s meant to be entrapping lazy Redbox users, not lazy theatergoers.

The plot (or whatever) is that a mysterious, lone assassin is picking off terrorists in and around the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. These victims are on the FBI’s most-wanted list so the U.S. Ambassador (Donald Sutherland) calls in a former FBI agent named Robert (Christian Slater) whose familiarity with Sofia and fluency in Bulgarian may be of use. Once in town, Robert reconnects with an old friend, a psychotherapist named Dr. Kahn (Timothy Spall). We are privy to the doctor’s sessions with a woman possessing a mysterious past. The woman is named Vicky and played by Elika Portnoy, who is also credited with the film’s story. There are things about her character I won’t reveal because they might be spoilers but they are all either too obvious or too daft for me to be sure.

Slater is the only one really even trying here. Well, technically, I suppose Portnoy is too but, alas, she’s just not very good. Sutherland and Spall are merely coasting, not even attempting to cover up for the boneheaded screenplay. Why, for instance, would the ambassador advise Robert, when introducing him to a pair of blatantly corrupt local detectives neither of them has ever met before, advise him to “trust them with your life”? Because that’s what characters say in movies like these, I guess. Later, we find out that Robert is sad because his wife died when Spall’s character essentially says, “Look, I know you’ve been sad since your wife died.”

Another sign that this film was supposed to premiere on DVD is the look of it. It’s clear that there was little time for setup and lighting before shots as every interior scene looks like it takes place in the lobby of a chain hotel and every exterior scene looks like whatever it looked like when they shot it. The approach is functional at best but more often apathetic.

It would seem that the same amount of time allowed for technical considerations was available for script polishing. In addition to placeholder lines like the ones above, there is a great deal that doesn’t make sense. The assassin works alone and stealthily relies on the element of surprise. However, when formula decrees that a big shootout should take place, a dozen expendable bad guys seem to simply appear in alleyways, windows and other positions that make it look cool when they get shot. And I’ll spare you the headache of delving too deep into the character of Vicky. You will figure out very early on what the deal is with her character, spend most of the time assuming there’s some other piece of information waiting down the line that will fit it all into place and then roll your eyes when it turns out there isn’t.

When Assassin’s Bullet is released on DVD this week – complete with a making-of featurette that I didn’t watch because I was afraid that doing so would require more energy than it took to produce the film and would somehow make time start to go backward or something – it will have returned to its rightful place. Now you can avoid it the way it was always meant to be avoided.

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