Didn’t find a topic on this masterpiece of cinema from 2009… ho ho ho.
Someone had told me this movie was fun and the trailer didn’t look too bad. It’s Battle Royale, but instead of scared school children you have the best assassins in the world, and instead of a deserted Japanese island it’s Middlesbrough filled with civilians. Add one guy who gets someone else’s tracker stuck on him and all that’s left to do is sit back and watch the amazing set pieces, right?
I need to go back and watch Die Hard to reassure myself that it’s simply that I’ve been seeing shitty action films recently, rather than having outgrown the genre or something depressing like that.
Firstly, it’s the classic mistake of telling us something and then showing us something else. Best assassins in the world? This bunch of incompetent fools? Run by incompetent fools? Only one figures out removing the tracker is a good idea, and apparently this incredibly easy thing to do thing is so unusual it takes the organisers quite some time to figure out what has gone on. Seriously? And the assassins all drank a strange liquid in their room? They want to take part, why not just arrange the surgery with them?
Then you have large numbers of hitmen walking around in the most conspicuous ways they can find. Just look at the shots of English people then the shots of hitmen. Really? The tracker clearly makes hiding in a crowd a great approach, yet this approach is only used once and thereafter the extras budget runs out and fights take place in solitary locations.
The film is also incredibly lazy. Buses (red ones at that) on the motorway? American(?) prices at British petrol stations?
Of course because we setup a silly number of assassins at the beginning we don’t know or care about most of them, necessitating a montage of pointless killings. I think Battle Royale’s class was about the same size, yet I managed to learn a little about every student before they died. The hitmen continue to display their incompetence by using about a hundred bullets for every successful hit.
Why would you even partake? Is $10 million really enough to take on the deadliest people in the world? I’d have thought if you’re operating at the top level you’d be making enough that you wouldn’t need to take this risk. Isn’t a key part of the job minimising risk?
The biggest problem for me is that the core of the story had potential. Or rather, the two key points:
Assassin finds man who isn’t supposed to be in the game. Her guilt over a previous hit causes her to burden herself with him, yet there can only be one left standing.
Previous champion is back and looking to avenge his wife’s death.
This should have tied together for a fantastic finale. Lai Lai Zhen has killed the wife of Joshua Harlow and is looking for redemption through Father MacAvoy. The audience sees her as the good guy, yet the film proceeds to show her as a bad guy. We look forward to the stand-off between her and Joshua where she clearly deserves to die, yet she’s the heroine and he’s no angel either.
Then what about the fact that there can only be one? Perhaps we’ll finally get the ending that Battle Royale wimped out on, when it comes down to it will you kill anyone to live? Will Father MacAvoy sacrifice himself? Will he finally find his life worth holding onto?
Pffft, fuck that, instead we get a ridiculous speech where apparently YOUR WIFE’S MURDER isn’t the baddie because someone paid her. Yeah, she simply went into his home and shot his wife, but hey, that doesn’t make her the bad guy, right?
So the film dodges every end and wimps out with a conspiracy to ensure all three are the good guys. It pretty much fucked itself in the tenth minute when the French guy removes his tracker, because once he’s done it anyone can and the entire Father MacAvoy plot has already resolved itself.
There are a couple of other niggles, like the drinking plot going nowhere (he gives in to temptation in the police car, but nothing comes of this) and Joshua is built up to be incredibly dangerous, but he’s already crippled before we even get to the final confrontation so what chance was he really doing to have?
There’s also that matter of the Frenchmen deciding to take a breather on the bus while Lai Lai Zhen hangs from a window. Or that the secondary technician seems to be having second thoughts about the whole thing, but that’d be too complicated for this film to handle.
To sum up, it’s a waste of 90 minutes. The action isn’t that great, there’s a lot of unnecessary gore, and the writer isn’t good enough to make anything from the premise.