Thursday, 19 January 2012



Are top contract killers interesting characters? If you believe the movies, they're impervious to emotion and living in isolation, cynically contemplating the human condition while simultaneously working out new ways to murder people they've never met. They may travel the world wearing sharp suits and cool sunglasses, bumping off despicable people in spectacular and amusing ways, but would they make for good dinner guests? What could you possibly talk with them about? Invariably, the screenplay arc for these ruthless, machine-like loners is either that they start to develop vaguely human feelings about people, they become the target themselves and fight back using their vast experience and skills, or they have to team up with another top contract killer to really kick some final reel backside.

All three tropes show up in Assassination Games, the latest Jean-Claude Van Damme thriller in which two assassins end up on the same job and have to work together: one cold and remorseless, one angry and enraged, both capable of massacring a roomful of utter bastards without a qualm. Van Damme is in it strictly for the money and British kickboxer Scott Adkins wants revenge against the foul gangster who gangraped his wife and put her in a coma. But it's all a convoluted scheme to get rid of Adkins because he knows about high-level corruption at Interpol. Meanwhile JCVD, stoically unfeeling, has his humanity very slightly awakened by the battered woman in the apartment next door....

Like Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenberg (usually a more personable screen presence but pretty unlikeable here) has gone to Eastern Europe for his straight-to-DVD years, presumably because it's cheaper to make this kind of film there than in the US. Assassination Games is a miserable film as far as women are concerned: there are two principal female roles, one stuck in a coma after a gangrape (ickily, Van Damme's own daughter, who was also a coproducer) and the other regularly beaten and ultimately bloodily murdered, and even the housekeeper gets shot in the back. They're just there to provide the motivation and justification for the revenge sequences: this is a movie about blokes and killing and sadism and corruption and bigass guns. Shame then that the end result is so drab. The odd bit of crunchy violence aside, it's formulaic, grubby and nothing more than perfunctory.


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