Drive-In Dive In: Assassin’s Game

Posted: May 13, 2015 in Action, Drive In, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

548790_036It’s decision time at the virtual drive-in. You’ve made it through the first two features of the night, and there’s a third one coming up. It’s a coin flip whether you stick it out and settle back in the vinyl upholstery of the front seat or whether you reholster the heavy metal speaker that’s been resting on your driver side window and join the growing line of cars heading for the exit.

Next up is Assassin’s Game, and all you know is that Tom Sizemore, Bai Ling, and Vivica A. Fox are the above-the-credits talent, and the premise is something about a hitman coming out of retirement to save his son. What the hey? It might turn out as poorly as ordering the deep fried shrimp from the snack bar, but any lingering aftertaste from bad movies and bad shellfish will be forgotten by next weekend.

You stay, and are immediately rewarded with a solid opening sequence that has the driver and bodyguard in the lead luxury SUV of a two-vehicle convoy, inexplicably driving across the desert with a woman in a track suit in the back seat, engage in a little Tarantino-esque banter before bad things begin to happen. Cue the sniper, cut to super slo-mo of our hijackers, who come in guns blazing. After an exchange of harsh words and bullets, track suit woman aka The Target aka Vivica A. Fox has escaped the assassination attempt, thanks to her ace-in-the-hole, The Bodyguard (Bai Ling) who packs a couple of lethal weapons and some seriously wicked orange lipstick.

Shooting stops. Talking starts. And that’s when Assassin’s Game starts to flounder. There’s no real plot – simply a premise. The leader of the trio that botched the job happens to be the son of John Wick! Well, not John Wick, and, no, not Keanu Reeves, but kind of John Wick if you found John Wick working as a janitor and, what’s more, actually looking like a janitor. Retired dad, Vet Jones, must step in for alienated son, Junior, and finish the job or else El Viejo will finish Junior.

There are three good things and two good scenes in the 83 minutes of this one. Good thing number one is Tom Sizemore as El Viejo. What – you thought he’d be Mexican? A B-list actor in a C-grade movie working his A off is always a pleasure. Sizemore doesn’t phone it in. He stresses every syllable of every expletive. Other than his obsessive gun fondling, his performance is first rate and provides the few intentional laughs Assassin’s Games has to offer.

Bail Ling as The Bodyguard is also a very good thing. She brings a slightly feral look to the role and rocks her camo pants. Ling is a little psycho spitfire, and the movie is better when she is on screen. The same can be said for El Viejo’s top henchman, Emmett (Chris Jai Alex). Alex has an easy style that translates nicely in an action flick. He is one half of a fight scene that is the bookend standout moment to the opening.

The other half of that fight is slightly problematic. Grandmaster Mark Mikita plays Vet Jones, and while Mikita possesses a rough physical charisma that communicates well in the action scenes, he does not have the acting chops to carry the load he’s given here. His line readings of this string of dialogue is particularly notable: “Whatever. Shut up. Get your head in the game.” To be fair, that is not the worst line reading in the movie. Junior, at one point in the middle of a gun battle in a warehouse, comes out with, “We should bury him. I’m gonna bury him out back.” Yeah, Junior, good plan. Whatever. Shut up. Get your head in the game.

You might jingle the keys in the ignition a few times waiting for this one to end, and you’re bound to question whether you should have left the drive-in early this night, but the credits are a bit of consolation. In what other film are you going to find 22 individual actors individually billed as “Goon?”

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