Assassin Club is yet another attempt by Hollywood to turn actor Henry Golding into an action star. Genre fans will remember Golding’s last attempt in the disappointing Snake Eyes (2021), a film that Assassin Club unfortunately shares many similarities with. With it’s cliche driven plot, terrible dialogue and worst of all, poorly shot action scenes, it would be a struggle to find a more underwhelming action film this year.

Assassin Club is another in a long line of films featuring a hitman trying to get out and undertaking one last job. The hitman this time round is Morgan (Henry Golding) who is looking to retire and spend a quiet life with school teacher Sophie (Daniela Melchior).

He is persuaded by his boss Caldwell (Sam Neill) to take on one last job that will make him millions and set him up for life. Morgan is tasked with carrying out six hits around the globe. Unbeknownst to him, the other targets are also assassins, with them being hired to kill him as well as each other. Amongst them is the deadly Falk (Noomi Rapace), who knows more than she is initially letting on. Now Morgan has to fight to survive as well as find out who has put a contract on his head.

What makes Assassin Club all the more disheartening is the fact that it had the potential to be a decent actioner if it only made some changes. The killer for me was how poorly rendered the action was. Perhaps we have been spoiled by the likes of John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023), but the set pieces here were so bland and poorly shot that it pretty much made Assassin Club dead on arrival.

Director Camille Delamarre cut his teeth working on several EuropaCorp productions under the tutelage of director Luc Besson. Editing the likes of Lockout (2012) and Taken 2 (2012), he eventually moved his way into the director’s chair, going on to direct both Brick Mansions (2014) and Transporter: Refueled (2015) for EuropaCorp.

Now, I would never consider either of those films classics, but considering one was a remake and the other a reboot of a beloved franchise, they proved to be decent B level action films with some well executed set pieces. Sure, the scripts weren’t exactly what you would call “quality”, but they got you from A to B, and Delamarre did a competent job behind the camera. Well for the most part. Like his fellow EuropaCorp director Olivier Megaton, Delamarre loves to use shakycam to the point of nausea.

Delamarre doubles down on the use of shaky cam here, with almost every action scene in the film being incoherent. I was hoping by this point we would be moving away from this style of action. The aforementioned Snake Eyes was also guilty of this. Why hire top tier fight choreographers and stunt coordinators if you’re going to just obscure the quality work they are carrying out.

The shaky cam isn’t the only problem with the action. Due to his background, Delamarre has also decided to be the chief editor for Assassin Club, resulting in no shot lasting more than a few seconds. Perhaps this was to give the film a feeling of urgency. It doesn’t.

Now and again you can see some snippets of quality shining through the action, with a decent car chase in the latter stages of the film being a highlight. Another plus point is the fact that it’s R rated, even if the blood is off the poorly rendered CGI quality.

Outside of the action scenes, Assassin Club’s main issue is its runtime. The film’s pace seriously lags and just with some editing could have been considerably tightened. A plot as simple as this film doesn’t need 110 minutes to tell it, with there being too many lengthy dialogue scenes, resulting in much of the film feeling like a slog.

These dialogue/exposition scenes wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the dialogue being delivered wasn’t so poorly written. This is the highest profile film screenwriter Thomas Dunn has written to, with the rest of his work being mostly DTV fodder, although the quality of the script isn’t any higher than his films not afforded a cinema release. The script is terribly po-faced, with very much in the way of levity. I’m not expecting a full on comedy here, but it wouldn’t have hurt for Dunn to inject some fun into the film.

The cast valiantly do their best with the material they are given, although some performers do appear to be acting like they are in a different movie. Henry Golding has shown himself to be an enjoyable performer in such films as Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and The Gentlemen (2019), however I have yet to see any evidence that he is a capable leading man, or more specifically an action star. This is more down to his choice of film rather than him as a performer. One just has to look at the production videos during the making of Snake Eyes to see that he is willing to put the work in to be a believable action lead, just that the finished products are letting him down.

Like Snake Eyes, the part of Morgan doesn’t give Golding much to play with. The remorseful assassin has been done countless times before him, and Golding isn’t able to bring anything fresh to the role, with Morgan coming across as an extremely bland character. The romance between him and Melchior’s Sophie should at least generate some empathy for his character, but I found it hard to care, with the two of them having very little in the way of chemistry.

I did think after her role in The Suicide Squad (2021) that Daniela Melchior would be offered better parts. This is certainly a step down for the actress, with Sophie just being a typical damsel in distress. It is no surprise when she is used against Morgan, with him having to race against time to rescue her. Melchior fares better in her ten minute role in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 (2023) than she does in the entirety of Assassin Club.

You certainly couldn’t say that Noomi Rapace’s performance is bland. I’m not sure I would exactly say that it’s good, but it’s certainly memorable. Starring as the mysterious Falk, Rapace’s accent is as incomprehensible as the camera work. At first Rapace is affecting an accent as part of her cover, but in other scenes she seems to be changing accent mid scene.

Also, Falk has a number of personas which results in Rapace wearing a disguise. One scene had me roaring with laughter as when she turns around to face the camera the music kicks in as if the audience are meant to be surprised to realize she is the same white haired character we saw earlier.

Fans of Rapace’s more action oriented roles will at least be happy that she gets a chance to kick some ass, even if this does pale in comparison to her best work. To be honest, it was the involvement of Rapace rather than Golding that had me interested in Assassin Club and I would have probably preferred if she was the lead instead.

Sam Neill adds a bit of class to the production, with Caldwell essentially being this film’s version of James Bond’s “M”. Neill only appears in a few scenes but has some fun with his character and brings more personality to his role than the two leads.

I know some of this review may seem outwardly harsh, but in 2023 I do expect more from an action movie. DTV movies are doing more memorable films on a quarter of Assassin Club’s budget, with better written scripts and better executed action that would put this film to shame.

I’m sure this won’t be the last action film to feature Henry Golding. In fact, he already has Guy Ritchie’s The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024) coming up which will hopefully show him in a better light. The talk of him being the next James Bond also continues, although if I were Golding I would be hoping the producers steer clear of Assassin Club.

At the end of the day, this film may still find an audience amongst less discerning viewers, ones looking for an easy watch on a Friday night who may enjoy its mix of action and romance.

Plot: 2/5
Acting: 2.5/5
Action: 2/5
Overall: 2.1/5


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