Review by Sean Boelman
The star-studded straight-to-VOD action movie is a tough genre — sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised with a fun time, but you’re mostly let down with a bunch of garbage. Assassin Club falls firmly into the latter category: a derivative, uninspired mess that fails to take advantage of its talent in front of the camera.
The film follows the world’s top assassin as he is thrown into a game where he is pitted against other elite killers who have been assigned contracts on each other’s heads — with the last person standing winning the sum. Of course, there’s a conspiracy to uncover, and it’s just as nonsensical as you would expect.
Ultimately, the story is little more than a connective tissue to bridge one action sequence to the next, and that’s all it should have been looked at as. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from a bloated hour-and-fifty-one-minute runtime filled with a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It’s a shame, because when the film actually gets to let loose and focus on its action, it can be a decently fun time. It was never going to be a groundbreaking piece of action cinema, but it could have worked as a mildly enjoyable B-movie. The action choreography is gritty and brutal, and the quick editing and shaky cinematography are somewhat kinetic.
The thing that this film is missing that prevents it from reaching the level of fun of other “assassin world” action flicks is memorable characters. The reason people remember the John Wick villains is that they all feel unique. The most memorable calling card in this is “she likes to use blades,” which is a perfect representation of how uninspired the writing is.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Hollywood desperately wants Henry Golding to become the next great action star — and it just isn’t going to happen. He wasn’t bad in the Snake Eyes movie, and he tries his darndest here, but even all of his charm and swagger can’t save a character that has the personality of a wet noodle.
The supporting cast also has a few recognizable names — Sam Neill, Noomi Rapace, Daniela Melchior — and of all of them, only Neill seems like he’s even having a remotely fun time here. Rapace, in particular, is frustrating because her role has all of the pieces in place that she would have needed to ham it up as an exaggerated villain, yet she doesn’t.
Assassin Club is not a good movie, and it’s because too much effort was put into trying to make the story make sense. Had some of the fat been cut, and this trimmed back into a lean ninety- or hundred-minute thriller, it could have been entertaining; as is, it’s too much of a slog to work.
Assassin Club hits VOD on May 16.