Foreign films are a genre that I’m constantly trying to explore more and more during my trips to the cinema. Last year I managed to see three; ‘Samba’, ‘Force Majeure’ and ‘Girlhood’. Whilst I thought they all varied in quality I like to constantly broaden my horizon in the genre so didn’t mind so much. When I started hearing great things about ‘The Assassin’ and spotted it being shown at one of my local cinemas I jumped at the chance.
The title ‘The Assassin’ says to me that this would maybe be a dark and edgy martial arts thriller, well I was sorely disappointed when I actually got a dull artsy movie that really went way over my head. The film really doesn’t have a lot to it and boredom sets in very quickly, this is not a film for the average movie goer, they would be very disappointed. I’m sure expectations did damage this movie though. Two of my favourite foreign films are ‘The Raid’ and ‘The Raid 2’ and they both centre on martial arts. Their non-stop pace, tension and flat out combat scenes had my expectations sky high so it’s only natural I guess that ‘The Assassin’ fell completely flat for me. However, I can’t completely blame my expectations as even though ‘The Assassin’ is slower in pace it still never interested me in terms of it’s story or visuals. With this slower pace the film really had the chance to delve into it’s story but it’s so straight forward and required next to no dialogue meaning audiences have very little left to stimulate them. A film that has done the opposite recently would be ‘The Revenant’, it gets the balance of art and entertainment just right but here the heavy focus on art makes this film ridiculously dull.
I’ll admit that the film does get slightly better as time goes on, as things move out from the enclosed settings at the start of the movie things do get just a tad more interesting. The fight scenes were always quite short and their more realistic nature meant they lacked excitement however I thought that the sound editing was done very well throughout these. Every slash of a sword or flying arrow was heard so clearly and this certainly resulted in a greater impact on the audience. There is one fight scene set in a forest which lasts a little longer than the rest and actually employs some music, which the previous scenes had failed to do. This scene showed the promise that this film had to be entertaining, it’s a shame that this was one of the only scenes that did this. The film certainly achieves the feeling of being in 8th century China and the costume/set design is always impressive, however when these are the only things left for enjoyment they simply can’t hold the whole film up by themselves. There are some breathtaking shots of landscapes too and they are much the same as the costume/set design, they are impressive but can’t be the sole source of enjoyment for the film to be successful.
‘The Assassin’ was a massive disappointment, my expectations are partly to blame but that still can’t excuse the incredibly slow pace, lack of interesting narrative or heavy reliance on art rather than entertainment. Don’t go in expecting a fast paced martial arts action thriller because this is not it, what you can expect is one good fight scene and some pretty visuals of 8th century China. If that is enough to sustain your interest for a little under two hours go for it, otherwise I’d strongly advise giving this one a miss!
Rating – 2/10
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