Assassins vs. Killers

Late summer is the time of year when the studios dump their mistakes and boo boo movies that didn’t quite work out the way they planned. That seems to be the case for the new action thriller Assassins vs. Killers. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the movie is actually much better than I expected given that it’s been dumped in the late August junkyard.

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Emily Blunt stars in Assassins vs. Killers as a sexy yet lethal killer

Emily Blunt stars as a sexy yet lethal killer opposite costar James McAvoy who plays a charming but deadly assassin. When they are both assigned to execute the same high-placed UN diplomat, they end up in a pulse-pounding cat and mouse game that is as erotic as it is fatal.

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James McAvoy costars in Assassins vs. Killers as a charming but deadly assassin

The action scenes are the reason to go to a movie like this, and they don’t disappoint for even a minute. While it’s nothing you haven’t seen in Hard Boiled, The Killer, The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2, Ip Man, Ip Man 2, Ong-Bak, Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning, or Ong-Bak 3, each fight and chase is expertly choreographed, not to mention sexy and stylish and full of smooth moves and cool guns.

But what elevates this movie above the usual late summer action doldrums is the two main villains. Jason Statham oozes frightening intensity as the Chief of the League of Killers. Part-reptilian, the Chief is descended from long dead lizard overlords.

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Jason Statham as the part-reptilian Chief of the League of Killers

Even better is Lucy Liu as the Grand Imperatrix of the Assassin’s Guild. It’s great to see Liu back in action after all these years, and she plays the part-insectoid Imperatrix with an alluring joie de vivre. The Grand Imperatrix is born of fearsome insects but hides it under her elegant white robes. She’s also just a straight badass who combines wizardly eastern wisdom with karate chopping kicks.

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Lucy Liu as the insectoid Grand Imperatrix of the Assassin’s Guild

I also enjoyed Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare as the top henchmen to the Chief and the Grand Imperatrix respectively. Their performances were over the top, and they each made the most of their lengthy and grotesque death scenes.

The movie’s plot is mostly predictable, but embedded within it is more compelling allegory than you usually get with this type of brainless action fare. It turns out the leaders of the Assassin’s Guild and the League of Killers are working together to dominate the globe in secret along the lines described by sociologist C. Wright Mills in his landmark 1956 book The Power Elite.

By the end, McAvoy and Blunt must join forces to overthrow the evil alliance of insect-people and reptilians who deprive us all of our liberty and freedom. And they also have sex with one another, and it’s hot.

TL;DR – Assassins vs. Killers is a pretty damn good movie with violence, sex and a meaningful message you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Lucy Liu is back in action and she’s better than ever, baby!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Assassins vs. Killers contains not a single recognizable human character or moment throughout its hundred or so arid minutes.” – George “Ramble” Bortz, Arizona Republic

“Sort of like if every other character in The Raid: Redemption was secretly an evil reptilian or insectoid monster.” – Brayton Exira, Collider

“With Assassins vs. Killers, director Paul Greengrass delivers the most effortless fusion yet of the political themes of his early films and the action conspiracy thriller tropes of his later movies.” – Kokia Cookei, Empire Magazine

“The mythology describing an alliance between insects and reptiles to rule over humanity was somehow both entirely nonsensical and deeply unsettling all at once.” – Lonesy Windrows, Washington Post

“Am I only one lamenting the total absence of Jeremy Renner’s crooked smirk in this one?” – Ernie van Schledorn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“Deadening to the senses and corrosive to the soul.” – Book Denison, Associated Press

Melonmeter® Score:

71% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™

 

 

Atomic Blonde

You absolutely have to go see Atomic Blonde, the new film about the pioneering female pilot who flew the Enola Gay B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic warhead on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. The film is more than just an exhilarating action adventure story, it’s also a powerfully moving historical drama about the resiliency of the human spirit.

Charlize Theron stars as Elsinore Perth (aka the “Atomic Blonde”), an audacious woman with a passion for flight who perseveres in the face of the rampant misogyny dominating the military at that time in our history. Theron plays Perth as feisty yet dashing, with a take-no-prisoners attitude that wins over any man dumb enough to step in her way.

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Oscar-winner Charlize Theron as Elsinore Perth, aka the “Atomic Blonde”

After becoming the most accomplished and daring civilian aviator in the world by the early 1940s, Perth became maniacally obsessed with circumventing the regulations that prevented women from entering combat divisions of the United States Armed Forces at the time. Perth determines that the only way to use her ample skills to serve her country effectively is to disguise herself as an 18-year-old boy named Billy Bishop so that she can be admitted to fly combat missions. This leads to some wonderful comic set pieces that recall classic films such as Some Like It Hot.

As Bishop, a preternaturally talented pilot and all around wiseass, Perth rises quickly up the ranks of the U.S. Army Air Forces until she’s flying some of the most dangerous missions of the war. She soon holds the record for bombing runs dropping incendiaries and other payload on dozens of Japanese cities.

Theron deserves another Oscar for deftly switching between Perth’s boyish persona as Billy the flying wunderkind, and Perth herself, a more feminine but equally irascible character. By the time she flies the fateful mission to drop Little Boy on Hiroshima, killing 126,000 Japanese and winning the war for the United States, I was moved to tears by Elsinore Perth’s derring do.

As the credits rolled, I had a lot to think about but was pleased to see real photos and even some newsreel footage of the real life “Atomic Blonde.” Even better, this historical footage was followed by some brief talking head interviews with powerful women of today including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Theresa May, Sheryl Sandberg and Condoleezza Rice. Each describes how she was personally inspired by Elsinore Perth’s pioneering work as an indomitable female trailblazer in a traditionally male profession.

My only quibble is that Theron’s hair color appeared more auburn to me than blonde. I don’t know the color of the real Elsinore Perth’s hair, but if Atomic Ginger didn’t work as a title, they should have just taken cinematic liberty and allowed Theron her classic blonde look.

TL;DR – Based on true historical events, few films can match Atomic Blonde’s potent combination of awards-worthy dramatic acting, pulse-pounding action and suspense, and gorgeously lensed flight sequences.

What the rest of the critics are saying:

“Charlize Theron is back, baby, and she’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

“The movie seems to sweep U.S. complicity in war crimes under the rug a bit too casually for my tastes.” – Epock Tines, The Baffler

“It has beautiful cinematography, a star performance that is shocking in its authenticity, a careful eye for nuance and detail and an irresistible blend of action, drama and even comedy that should spell automatic success.” – Dian Rizki II, Austin Chronicle

“When it takes to the skies Atomic Blonde really soars with thrilling recreations of Perth’s bombing runs.” – Kokia Cookei, Empire Magazine

“If you’re the kind of person who deplores the modern vogue for debunking historical figures, and who welcomes the opportunity to indulge in heroic feats and exotic locales, then this is the film for you.” – Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph

“As Perth sees the flash of the atomic explosion, her eyes light up in shock and then she erupts with monstrous peals of laughter. I felt chills shoot up my spine.” – Mameh Immanuel Sisma, The Guardian

“The film discreetly tiptoes around Perth’s responsibility for the incineration of tens of thousands of Japanese in favor of swashbuckling adventure and rip-snorting spectacle.” – Youtan Poluo, New England Movies Weekly

“The hair color kerfuffle really threw off the whole experience for me.” – Ginger Thorch, NewsBlaze

Melonmeter® Score:

99% liquid & seed retention – watermelon_icon_pitr-1979px CERTIFIED JUICY™