MOVIE REVIEW: The Assassin

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Writers: Cheng AhT’ien-wen Chu, Hai-Meng Hsieh, Xing Pei
Stars: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Satoshi Tsumabuki

The story of a failing Dynasty and a female Assassin.

Please remember that while my review is a purely honest review I do understand that others will see this as a masterpiece.  It’s the same with every review out there, it’s just one person sitting watching a film, and sometimes it sings to you, and other times you are left scratching your head wondering why this film got funding.

The Assassin feels like, and going to put emphasis on feels like, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon meeting Leon, in no way in my mind does The Assassin live up to the awesome that is those two films.  You just get that feeling that this production wanted to be close to those masterpieces of cinema.  The problem is that there are strands of the story that just don’t fit in to anything, are never explained, and are so abstract that there are not enough breadcrumbs in the world to find your way home again.  The story of a young woman being trained by a Nun to be a killer would have been fine, the story of a province trying to remain free from the pressures of the Court would have been awesome, and the story of a ruler trying to keep his Wife from murdering his Mistresses unborn child would have been interesting to watch.  What we have though is so distorted and unclear that I was left scratching my head in wonderment.

Rather than fill the film up with someone strange and wonderful called a script, the film makers decide just to show us the beautiful countryside.  In all fairness it is amazingly beautiful and a place that I’d love to visit, but it’s not something I’d travel to the cinema to see, I would have loved to have had a well balanced script and film.  The characters are not developed properly and the whole thing is confusing.  While the staging of the film, costuming and set dressing, offers you something pleasant to look at.

The acting isn’t anything to write home home about, but it’s my job so I have to, you don’t get that love for any of the characters that you got in Leon and again in Crouching Tiger.  If I had gotten any liking for any of the characters it would have been a great piece to watch.  Sadly you just sit there waiting for the film to finish.  The film is all over the place and when there is a piece of action thrown in for good measure it’s glossed over and ruined.  This is more soap opera than action movie, but the soap opera part doesn’t work, mainly because the characters are not fleshed out, and the development of the story leaves you to do most of the work, ruining the escapism.  There is also one moment where there is a Game of Thrones style of storytelling used that also does not make sense.

I love movies from all over the world.  In the three years that I’ve been reviewing movies I can say honestly that the majority of films that I’ve loved have come from outside the Hollywood Movie machine.  The Assassin is not one of them.  I’ll tell you that the 2 out of 5 stars comes from the production values of the dressing and wardrobe.  There was a hope at the start of the film that I was going to have a great deep breathtaking cinema moment to hold with me, another film to add to my Blu-Ray list of movies to buy, but I would not want this in my collection.  I don’t think I’d watch this film again, nor can I honestly tell you that should pay to see this in a cinema.  If Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is your bag then save yourself time and money and just watch that beautiful film again.  If you think you are going to get more of the same from The Assassin then you are probably, and going to point out again that you very may well enjoy this, but more likely to dislike, going to be disappointed.

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