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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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