Movie Review: Let your “Assassin Club” Membership Lapse

Reason #19 you don’t want to sit next to Rodg at the movies. There’s always the chance I’m going to mutter the movie critic’s “quiet part out loud” judgement despite my best efforts not to.

“Boy, this has absolutely nothing that holds my interest” I found myself grumping very early in “Assassin Club,” an opinion that the remaining 100 minutes did not change.

It’s another star vehicle for hunky leading man Henry Golding, a “Crazy Rich Asian” with a seriously uneven post-“Crazy” track record in movies. “Snake Eyes?” “The Gentlemen?” “Last Christmas?” “Persuasion?”

Here, he’s a hired-killer who finds himself hunting and hunted by his fellow assassins as someone is putting out contracts on everybody who keeps a roof over her or his head via murdering people for money.

Sam Neill plays the glib, posh, harpsichord-playing epicurean who chatters away on the phone as “Morgan” (Golding) lines up his next shot.

“You love the sound of your own voice, don’t you, old man?”

When Morgan himself takes a bullet, handler Caldwell barely interrupts his latest pricy glass of wine to quip “little flesh wound, here and there, part of the job” before bringing up the next assignment.

It’s a multi-hit, multi-million dollar contract, a sort of “game,” really. But Morgan wants out of what Caldwell insists is still “good, necessary work,” taking out arms dealers, human traffickers and the like.

As Caldwell knows there are but “three reasons” people like his “gold standard” killer end their careers — “They find God, they find a woman” or they “die.” — we guess it’s the Italian school teacher Sophie (Daniella Melchior), who knows nothing of her lover’s injurious and deadly line of work, who motivates Morgan’s desire to be done with killing.

Noomi Rapace plays an Interpol-ish exec trying to track down the killers and those who are killing them.

Because whoever paid that big contract apparently offered it to others. Every hired killer in Europe (lots of second unit footage takes us from Prague to Paris to Portugal) is killing off every other hired killer.

It’s kill or be killed, with Caldwell giving the cell phone delivered resume of each target.

“Yuko is a martial arts master most feared for her bladework, with perhaps some lingering ‘Daddy’ issues.”

The fights are OK, the shootouts nothing to remember, the chases are passable and the killings themselves perfunctory.

In the pre-TV era mediocrities like “Assassin Club” were labeled programmers. Get a few stars featured in a generic plot and it might look like an “A-picture” but the studios, which then owned their own theater chains, knew better. It was just to keep lower-cost fresh content on their screens so that they didn’t lose their shirts between hits.

Those lesser films became “direct to video” in a later era. “Straight to streaming” we call them today.

The screenwriter of the Wes Bentley bomb “The Perfect Witness” plotted this one, and hasn’t improved in the decades since that barely-released “programmer” came and went. The indifferent direction here has neither flare nor signs of rank incompetence.

So the only reason to see it is the cast, right? But in or out of action, Golding isn’t anybody’s idea of a big draw, and pitting him against “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Rapace, and pairing him up with Neill as the upper class Brit who gives the assassin his assignments doesn’t change that.

Rating: R, lots of violence, some profanity

Cast Henry Golding, Sam Neill, Daniella Melchior, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Anastasia Doaga and Noomi Rapace.

Credits: Directed by Camille Delamarre, scripted by Thomas Dunne. A Paramount+ release.

Running time: 1:51

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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