Assassins (1995)
By: Devon B. on August 25, 2013 | Comments
Warner Bros. | Region Free | 1.85:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 113 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore, Anatoli Davydov
Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, Brian Helgeland
Country: USA
External Links
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Assassins, or Ass ass ins as I so cleverly rechristened it on its initial release, was filmed near where I lived, or at least parts of it were. That bit in the cemetery, that was a local cemetery. Yes, I have walked the same ground as Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas. I still remember some news report about a local woman who hung out with Stallone. She indicated there was no sex. To this day, I'm still amazed that Stallone being in the same room as someone was considered newsworthy, even if it was a slow news day.

A film equivalent of a slow news day is Assassins, because it really doesn't have a lot happening. Stallone is the best assassin, but he's also an assassin with empathy because he's the hero. His latest contract gets popped by Banderas before Stallone has a chance to shoot, and this leads to a little tension between the two. Banderas is swiping Stallone's hit because he wants to be number one, and the pair are at loggerheads for most of the movie as they compete over who'll be killing whom when.

Written by the siblings responsible for The Matrix, Assassins doesn't have a bad kernel of an idea, indeed it's very similar to the story arc in a few seasons of Dexter, but Assassins really needed some tightening. It's okay, but it's too ponderous and heavy handed to be fully satisfying. For example, Stallone talks to himself a lot. At first it could be chalked up as a quirky character trait because he's lonely, but even then it still becomes insulting having him explain everything with such disregard to subtly. Stallone seemed to be on a downward slope at this stage of his career, but he was still a big deal. The studio paired him with action up and comer Banderas, hot off Desperado which had come out only a few months prior, which made Assassins seem like it was going to be the most awesome movie ever. Throw in Julianne Moore and direction by Richard Donner and I had high expectations, but rather than an action classic, I got more of a lightweight thriller.

I wasn't sure if Assassins was just another casualty of my teenage ability to overhype movies before their release, so I was picked up a copy when it was released on Blu-ray. I enjoyed it more the second time around, but I still found it too plodding and earnest. A big part of why I like Stallone movies is I think the guy's funny, but when things are "serious" like they are in Assassins, Stallone doesn't get a lot of opportunity to make with the laughs. Not that I like it when Stallone focuses all his attention on gags, because without question his worst movies are his outright comedies, but I often struggle with his movies when he's being too serious. I find Stallone's at his best with little flashes of humour, and when the occasional joke did surface in Assassins I found myself much more interested. Stallone seems to be playing Banderas' straight man, but that wasn't necessary since the two aren't on screen together that often, so the film is left with an abundance of gravitas when it seems like it should be more fun.

Aside from some stilted performances by bit players, Assassins is a competent movie, it just takes too long getting things happening. I can be willing to accept Stallone's forays into more serious territory, but this movie really felt like it needed more humour and a brisker pace.
The Disc
There's a little bit of motion blur, but generally the print is clear and sharp. Detail is strong, but this isn't really demo material. Part of this may be because there are a lot of overcast scenes since a good portion of the movie is set in Seattle, so things aren't always brightly lit. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is fine, but surround sound was still being developed when this movie was released so it's not entirely immersive. The guns all sport silencers, which means one of the main areas for the movie's sound to up the up the ante has been removed, but there are some car chases and a good firey explosion. The movie isn't wall to wall action at any rate, so this is a good representation of the film's audio, but it's not a hugely impressive track. There're also a few lossy 5.1 dubs, and a mono Portuguese dub. As for extras, all we get is a trailer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Stallone's too earnest in Assassins for my liking, and the movie isn't engaging enough for me to take it seriously. It's not bad, but it's not over the top enough to be the crazy fun it might've been. The movie doesn't make a lot of sense so it's hard to buy as a serious thriller, but it's too restrained to be a great action flick, so it succeeds at neither.
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