Assassins (1995)

Chunky Mix

This project fascinates me. Donner is legendary for taking “chunks” out of genres, attaching them to characters, and jamming them together to make hits. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the experiment gets out of hand. This one is a failure, but an interesting one.

Start with the idea that there are three acting styles: the multilayered self referential, the “simplify to the archetype,” and the “saturation” or method. Take the top actors in each of these fields: Julianne Moore, Stallone and Banderas respectively, put them together and watch the inter genre sparks fly.

Then, go get the top new writers of situations: here they chose the Wachowskis, who know how to sculpt a very, very simple, readable situation and make it appear complex. And finish it off with Helgeland who is adept at potent speeches. I can see the wheels spinning at the production office. I can see people buzzing about the new mix and how it will change the blockbuster equation like “X-men“ and “Lethal Weapon.” I can imagine how comfortable each player felt because they were being asked to expand on their own worst tendencies like Mell Gibson was.

It doesn’t work. I think an equally radical and outrageous production/art design would have helped. The final set in Rico wasn’t dimensional enough. But the key problem is with the players. One can fault Stallone, but that’s not fair. I think he knows a lot about his own presence, and has some intelligent ideas about it, but is too limited an actor to do anything but grunt. Since he often goes to extremes, it hardly is noticeable that here he actually is trying to out-Dred Dred. That Wachowski depends on him for inner complexities is supposed to be part of the joke, one Donner uses a lot.

One can’t fault Banderas either. He is as jumpy as humanly possible in an antimacho manner. No, this time the fault is at Moore’s feet. That’s why I find this so amazingly interesting. She is one of the best film actresses working. She understands how to fold an explicitly false reality of the film with a real reality of comment in a private world shared between her and viewer. And she is consistently powerful enough to blow two relative amateurs like Tony and Sly off the screen. The whole enterprise depends on her holding her own, so why doesn’t she? Instead, she doesn’t even try and instead follows the Basinger model of “girl on the run with resourceful, lover/shooter.”

I can only guess that this is because she did 5 films that year. Two of them were hard, hard work, and that follows the amazing “Vanya” of the previous year which was in preparation for very long.

Too bad, too. This was the only experiment I know where intelligent acting, indeed some deep thinking about what acting IS, was intended for an action movie. We all lost when she took a vacation.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *