CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
Psssst! Wanna look at the pretty ladies being smacked around? Punched in the stomach, punched in the face? And when they're on the ground, kicked in the gut? Or shot at, or knifed? See the bruises! See the blood! Hear the crack of knuckle on cheek! Seriously, if that's the kind of thing you enjoy (and if it is then you should probably leave the house right now and throw yourself under the first available wildebeest stampede) there's plenty of thug-on-lady fisticuffs on offer in this dispiritingly ugly thriller from Israel. Sadly, the deeply unpleasant violence is the most effective thing in the movie. It's not sadistic in a Hostel or Saw kind of a way, it's sadistic in a casual punch-to-the-face kind of a way, and it works because of the raw video look that gives everything the feel of grubby camcorder pornography: it doesn't look like a proper film.
The Assassin Next Door is Galia (Olga Kurylenko), trafficked into Israel from the Ukraine and forced to become a killer, carrying out occasional hits and constantly promised the return of her passport so she can get back to her family. She befriends Elinor, the battered wife in the apartment next door, and the two of them plan their escape from the hideous male-dominated squalor of their present lives. But will Elinor's odious brute of a husband reform when he finds out she's pregnant? And can Galia get her passport and money from her thuggish gangmasters?
That a movie depicts hideous violence obviously doesn't mean it's endorsing or condoning it; The Assassin Next Door isn't in favour of wife beating and murder any more than Friday The 13th is in favour of killing teenagers with an axe. Still, the violence is surprisingly upsetting and unsettling: shorn of the gloss of 35mm and lush lighting, it has a disturbing realism about it. But the bulk of the movie - the friendship between the two women - could perhaps have used a little gloss. Maybe ungraded and unfiltered digital video is the natural successor to 16mm, but it makes it a very difficult film to like.
It's also misrepresented by its advertising. The DVD artwork (at least for the Western world) makes it look more of a shoot-em-up gun movie and it really isn't - Galia's kills are cold and brutal and no fun, and while Kurylenko is probably best known as a Bond girl (it wasn't her fault that Quantum Of Solace was such a mess) the few action sequences are way, way below 007 standards. This is more of a low-budget indie drama about the developing relationship between two abused and victimised women, which is fine but obviously more difficult to market commercially. But don't try and sell it to me as the action movie it isn't. (Incidentally, if you accept the IMDb's word for things, director Danny Lerner is not the same Danny Lerner who directed the mighty Shark In Venice.)