Monday, May 15, 2023

Assassin Club, Co-Starring Sam Neill

Hitman guilds are never very collegial. Just ask Mike Fallon from the Accident Man films. Sure, they will throw a lot of work your way, but sooner or later, they contract all their members to kill each other. Morgan Gaines is about to go through one of those phases. Technically, he really isn’t part of any “club,” title notwithstanding, but shares a common handler with at least one hired guns out to kill him in Camille Delamarre’s Assassin Club, which releases tomorrow on digital.

Gaines always insisted on killing parasitic monsters, like the Slovenian human trafficker he has a bead on, in the opening scene. Unfortunately, Alec Drakos also has a bead on him. Gaines just barely escapes with his life, but Drakos takes out his contract. When he gets home, Gaines is quite put-out by the whole business, but his self-consciously sleazy handler Caldwell only wants to talk about this new super-contract: six targets at one million dollars a pop.

Initially, Caldwell neglects to mention the contract out on Gaines as well. Contemplating retirement, Gaines declines, until he saves his innocent civilian girlfriend Sophie from an assassination attempt (mostly targeting himself). As he starts to get the ugly truth out of Caldwell, he realizes it will more-or-less be a case of kill or be killed. However, the mysterious, faceless assassin Falk proposes a temporary working truce, to her benefit, of course.

There is nothing wrong with a film about a pack of assassins trying to kill one another, but the
Accident Man duology did it so much better. Delamarre (who previously helmed The Transporter: Refueled) helms some serviceable action sequences, but Thomas Dunn’s screenplay is dumber than a duffle full of doornails. There are moments when you have to ask the screen: “seriously dude, you’re going to buy that?”

Easily, the best thing about
Assassin Club is the great Sam Neill, inexplicably classing up the joint as Caldwell. He devilishly chews the scenery, oozing arrogance and smarm, which is all quite entertaining. Henry Golding is competent enough as an action hero, but his reserve requires more colorful supporting characters around him. Noomi Rapace is cold and calculating as Falk (and her not so secret alter-ego), but never for a second does she look like she is having any fun with her scheming.

Honestly, the entire climax seems like it should have been easily avoided. Delamarre keeps it all looking professional, but it would be hard for anyone to overcome the clunky writing. Despite some cool scenes with Neill,
Assassin Club is not recommended when it releases tomorrow (5/16) on digital.