Movie Review – The Assassins (2012)

The Assassins
Directed by Linshan Zhao
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: January 8, 2012


Oriental period pieces, when they are well done, are always an attraction for me. I enjoy seeing the lavish sets, the intricate costumes, and the painstaking attention to detail that is usually put into such productions. THE ASSASSINS is one of those films; it is a visual delight to behold, and the plot is rife with both political intrigue and bold action.

If you are not familiar with THE ASSASSINS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Well Go USA press release:

During the Three Kingdom period, Cao Cao stands as the last pillar of power preventing the collapse of the Han throne. Emperor Xian, who sits on the throne, cares more about music and poems than his own power. But behind the Emperor’s disinterest, rumors that Cao Cao wants the throne for himself have driven Emperor Xian to plot Cao Cao’s assassination, a plan that’s been years in the making. An ancient prophecy states that when the four elementals start to align, a new dynasty will arise, and in 221 A.D., they do. With the weakened government and impending omen, Cao Cao has enemies everywhere, and they all want him dead. Someone has been abducting the children of Cao Cao’s dead enemies and training them to be assassins. In 221, they are grown and sent to infiltrate the Bronze Sparrow Tower. When the four stars align over Bronze Sparrow Tower, the struggle for Cao Cao’s life begins…

I will confess that this film is not what I thought it was going to be. I was expecting big land battles with scores of troops and lots of bloodshed. Interestingly, there was none of that. Instead, individual battles are fought (sometimes literally) in the Emperor’s court. This was a nice surprise for me.

THE ASSASSINS is shot well and the camerawork captures much of the staggering scenery from the nearby landscape. I have to say that this is one of the most beautifully shot movies I’ve seen this year.

The acting is great as well, with Chow Yun Fat headlining a stellar cast. I’ve been a fan of Fat’s work for a long, long time, ever since I saw him in John Woo’s 1986 hit A BETTER TOMORROW. Seeing him in a period piece like this one is just icing on the cake. Fat delivers a fantastic performance as Cao Cao.

There’s not much fighting in THE ASSASSINS, as I mentioned earlier. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it was a bit of a surprise. Still, the fighting we do get to see is very good and the choreography does not disappoint.

THE ASSASSINS is a top notch film and I highly recommend giving it a look. The film hits store shelves in a couple of weeks, so be sure and make a note.


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