Assassin Club (2023)
Director: Camille Delamarre
Screenwriters: Thomas Dunn
Starring: Henry Golding, Noomi Rapace, Sam Neill, Daniela Melchior, Jimmy Jean-Louis
This must be in the mindset of a film critic when going in to any film: have an open mind, intend to see the good as well as the bad. Hundreds, oftentimes thousands, of people have offered tens of thousands of hours of hard work and labour, missing birthdays and anniversaries and ball games, so that they may help craft a collection of still images and sounds which, when played through a projector at 24 frames per second (most of the time), can have the power to move someone. All the effort that has been put in has the power to make us cry, laugh, forget our mortal worries and doubts for a few minutes or a few hours. They push the boundaries of art to new heights. Through their hard work, we can find new meaning within ourselves, experience profound revelations about our world, the people around us, the political ideologies of society. Cinema has the power to change us, to make us do extraordinary things.
The only thing Assassin Club makes you want to do is hope one of the assassins in the film takes you out instead.
The premise, if it can be called that, is to have Henry Golding’s character, a hitman named Morgan, end up with six other assassins all with contracts on their head trying to take each other out. This kind of story has been done before; Japan in general has had a good hold on the death game narrative throughout the 21st Century, obviously kickstarted by Battle Royale (book and film). The anime ‘Mirai Nikki’ (‘Future Diary’) did a similar thing but with a much more interesting twist; that all the killers have a way of predicting a different aspect of the future.
Assassin Club’s unique contribution to the subgenre of thrillers is to grace the screen with some of the worst directing ever crafted; certainly within the last few years. One wouldn’t be surprised to hear of massive issues behind the scenes, because that’s the only possible way to explain how sloppy, unfocused, slap-dash, and amateur each and every shot looks. For once, it is a blessing that the action scenes rely on shaky cam, because you don’t want to see whatever it is they’re trying to give the impression of showing to begin with. When one combines this with the atrocious editing (by Mickael Dumontier and director Camille Delamarre), where scenes are simply cobbled together in some vague semblance of what a monkey considers organisation, serious questions are raised. Batgirl got shelved and this got through. Somehow.
The script tries to care, but we don’t. Plot threads are left dangling, and whether this is through bad writing or what’s left on the cutting room floor, it makes no difference. Characters are stock and weak, some of the important ones given perhaps two scenes where they don’t talk (not like we need to know our main characters; of course not). It’s another notch in the careers of Sam Neill and Noomi Rapace, actors who most likely only looked at the script because they saw the size of the figure on the contract and needed another Bentley. Can’t blame them. Betsy Palmer needed a new car and so agreed to be in Friday the 13th after all, but the worst moments of that film were light-years away from the best of this film.
Everyone who worked on Assassin Club – the gaffers and runners and art department and caterers and those at the production office booking the hotels and organising the outdoor shooting permits and the rest – got paid and fed their families. Thank the cinematic gods above for that, because that’s the only upside.
This insult to brainpower must have been masterminded by individuals who truly hate cinema to their very core. Do not see this movie. Discourage others from seeing it. Rebel. Begin the resistance. Fight for Film.