Friday, September 2, 2011

Assassination Games (2011)

Is there a more well-tread genre than the lonely hitman movie? It’s right up there with the tournament fighting genre that populates the direct-to-DVD universe, something that “Assassination Games” star Jean-Claude Van Damme knows a thing or two about. In “Games”, Van Damme plays the world-weary hitman Brazil, whose coldness is proportional to his skill as a master assassin. It’s only when the spunky prostitute next door enters his life that our hero learns to trust, and begins on the road to living again. After our hero saves the hooker with the heart of gold from her vicious pimp, the gal returns the favor by showing Brazi the secrets of turtle power. (I kid you not.) Of course, this is only a subplot, because the main plot has Brazil squaring off against fellow hitman Flint (Scott Adkins) for a prized kill.

While it’s all bucks and glory for Brazil (or more specifically, blood diamonds), it’s all personal for Flint, whose wife was brutally assaulted and put in a coma by piece of shit criminal Polo (Ivan Kaye). As it turns out, Flint used to work for some scummy Interpol types who now want to silence our retired hitman. In order to lure the now underground Flint out of hiding, the shady Euro types have engineered Polo’s early release from prison. At the same time, Brazil is contracted to kill Polo, and during the ensuing assassination attempts, the two elite killers cross paths. Like all good superhero comic books, after an initial introduction fight, the two decide to team up — Brazil to complete his contract, and Flint to exact his much-desired vengeance.

Of course, it’s not all roses and cheese cakes, because those Interpol bad guys are all up in Flint’s business, arranging traps, double crosses, what have you. Luckily for Flint, he’s a pretty wily fellow, and he certainly doesn’t seem to be getting a whole lot of help from Brazil, who spends most of his time getting to know the prostitute next door played by the lovely Marija Karan. Truly, it’s through the young scamp that our hitman’s cold heart is eventually warmed, leading to the realization that life’s not truly lived unless you care for someone. As a result, Van Damme’s Brazil is easily the most well-developed of the cast. And oh, in case you were curious, Van Damme’s daughter Bianca plays Adkins’ comatose wife, while his son plays one of the slimy Interpol guys. Hey, if Will Smith can put his kids in movies…

Action-wise, “Assassination Games” has plenty to keep you occupied, though you’d be hardpressed to find a signature fight or action sequence in the whole thing. Director Ernie Barbarash started his career with the 2004 sequel “Cube: Zero”, and he’s serviceable handling the action here, with a couple of nifty scenes but nothing to get too excited about. Adkins, in particular, should really have been unleashed a lot more in the few fights he’s given. An older Van Damme handling the drama stuff is fine, but when you have a guy like Adkins around, an action star in his prime, it’s a crying shame to have him running around with a sniper rifle. “Games” is actually the second film for Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins, the two having previously teamed up in 2008′s “The Shepherd”, in which Adkins played villain to Van Damme’s hero. 

“Assassination Games” had a limited theatrical released late last month, a first for Van Damme since his Hollywood heyday of the ’90s (his brief voice work in “Kung Fu Panda 2″ notwithstanding), but is currently available by way of Video on Demand. As a Van Damme movie, “Games” is on par with his more recent filmography, where the Muscles from Brussels attempts to justify the action with credible drama. It’s a laudable effort by Van Damme (Hey, Steven Seagal, take note), and something he’s achieved to varying degrees of success in films like “The Eagle Path” and “JCVD”. For fans of Scott Adkins’ brand of asskicking, though, you’d probably be better off re-watching any of his “Undisputed” movies. 

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