Next week, Sylvester Stallone returns to the big screen with his latest project, Bullet To The Head. The film arrives just a couple of weeks after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand which divided critics and hasn’t attracted much enthusiasm from moviegoers. With both men well into their 60s now the idea that they can credibly compete with the new generation of much younger action stars (Expendables and Terminator franchises aside) is hard to fathom. Nonetheless, expect to see them stick with this genre for the foreseeable future.
Eighteen years ago, Stallone worked with Julianne Moore and Antonio Banderas in Assassins, one of several lousy features he subjected audiences to in the 1990s. (For the record, his worst turkey during this period was Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. In a word: horrid.) Released in October 1995, I was assigned the task of reviewing it for The Satellite, Mohawk College’s student newspaper. The good news was I didn’t have to buy a ticket to see it. Entertainment Editor Corey Martin gave me a complimentary sneak preview pass sent to him from Warner Bros., the distributor of the film, which allowed me to screen it before its official theatrical run.
So, on the evening of October 4, I bussed it alone to the packed Jackson Square Cinemas for this one-time pre-commercial public exhibition. As you’ll see from my review, I’m not a fan. My assessment was published the following week in the Entertainment section on page 11 of the October 11, 1995 edition of The Satellite under the headline, “Formula Film Fails”.
I’ve resisted posting this for the longest time because of three problems I should’ve corrected before this was even submitted for its initial publication. In the original review, I noted that Moore and Stallone ultimately “enjoy a platonic relationship”, after a rocky start, that I predicted would turn sexual if there ever was a sequel. (The film was a flop domestically so that never happened.) But in the last paragraph I wrote, “Stallone and Moore have no chemistry together and I was wondering why they had to be paired romantically”, a weird assertion that completely contradicts my earlier statement. As a result, I’ve rejigged that particular line so it makes more sense now.
Also changed is this question I posed: “…why did Stallone waste his time with this movie when he is far more entertaining in comedies?”. Considering how much I loathed Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, I wonder why I wrote such a sweeping, generalizing statement like that. I did like Oscar, however, but as I recall, it was the supporting cast that generated most of the laughs, particularly Tim Curry and Chazz Palmintari. The new edit corrects the sloppiness of that original thought.
Finally, looking back, I didn’t really make it clear what the nature of Moore’s business transaction was with those undercover Interpol agents, so after researching on the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia, I’ve added the phrase “a disc of stolen information” to that section of the review.
Other than these corrections, this is how I originally felt about Assassins nearly 20 years ago:
Formula Film Fails
Special To The Satellite
It still astonishes me that Hollywood movie executives are continuing to give the green light to so many gifted filmmakers to make bad movies from unoriginal scripts. Why do they do this? Don’t they realize that we go to the movies to lose ourselves in the story and not in the intricate special effects?
George Lucas knows that. So does Steven Spielberg. You would think Richard Donner would be story-conscious, too. Guess again. In the new film, Assassins (which Donner directed to the worst of his ability), Sylvester Stallone plays Robert Rath, a fed-up assassin who wants out. Antonio Banderas, in his worst performance ever, plays Miguel Bain, an up-and-coming contract killer who keeps stealing Robert’s “marks” (human targets, in other words). He would love to rub out Robert before he retires.
About halfway through, the movie starts to pick up the pace a bit, but not considerably. We are introduced to a character named Elektra (well-played by Julianne Moore) who happens to be a surveillance expert. She is in the middle of a transaction with who she thinks are Dutch buyers (they are really Interpol agents) when suddenly, Miguel Bain, the “bad” assassin, shows up and the deal over a disc of stolen information collapses. Elektra escapes (with her feline companion, Pearl) and later, joins forces with Robert. First, they hate each other, then, they enjoy a platonic relationship. (If this movie makes enough dough, they will probably battle it out in the sexual arena in the sequel.)
Meanwhile, Miguel receives the assignment of a lifetime. He is ordered to eliminate Robert Rath, which leads us to the inevitable final confrontation in an exotic location where all is revealed.
Assassins is a boring movie. It has poor dialogue, bad acting (especially from Banderas), and has a somewhat screwy ending. Stallone and Moore have no chemistry together even in a non-romantic sense and I was wondering why they had to be paired in the the first place. One also wonders why Stallone wasted his time with this movie when he was part of the far more entertaining ensemble in the underappreciated Oscar. “The pay was good,” would probably be his response.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, January 24, 2013