Movie Review – The Assassin (2015)

The Assassin
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: January 26, 2015

the assassin

I’ve enjoyed almost every film I’ve reviewed from Well Go USA. The company seems to have a firm grasp on importing top-notch films from overseas, and they even dabble in a few titles domestically as well. But today’s film, THE ASSASSIN, is the first of their titles I’ve had to struggle to get through. And when I say ‘struggle’, I mean it…I had to resist the urge to stop watching this film several times throughout its duration. Not because the film is terrible, but simply because it is boring, with a capital ‘B’. If you’re looking for artistic cinema with beautiful landscapes and long (LONG!) dramatic pauses, this is the film for you. But if you’re looking for action or thrills, you’ll want to skip this one completely.

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

Celebrated Taiwanese Master Director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s long-awaited return to the screen tells the story of Yie Ninniang (Shu Qi), a General’s daughter, kidnapped as a child and trained by a nun in the deadly arts- only to be sent home on a bloody mission of revenge, with her betrothed (Chang Chen) as the target.

Prior to watching it, I was all set to love this film. The title alone was enough to snare my interest, and when I saw the cover, I was certainly hooked. I am very disappointed to report it falls way short of my expectations.

THE ASSASSIN is shot very well and looks beautiful onscreen. The cinematography is a nice blend of artistry and function, highlighting stunning landscapes and lustrous sets. Unfortunately, this is the only positive I can mention.

The acting is very lackluster, with many wooden performances. A couple of articles I read about the film stated the director wanted this type of acting, as it added more realism to the plot. I disagree. The lack of emotion only punctuated the degree of boredom that was playing out in each scene.

And speaking of boring, THE ASSASSIN has pretty much nothing going on through 90% of the film. There are long drawn out scenes where nothing happens, yet the camera remains stationary and focused on the non-action regardless. This gives a great view of the scenery, but it made me start nodding off around 35 minutes in. The few fight scenes we get to see are decent but nothing to write home about. A couple of complex, intensity-filled battles might have helped save the film, but alas, we are not that lucky.

As a result, THE ASSASSIN falls flat for me, and I can’t recommend it…unless you are looking for an artistic (albeit bland) foray into history. If so, the film hits store shelves next week, so make a note. Otherwise, spend two hours on a more interesting film.

MSB

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