Henry Golding fails to convince as a contract killer in this bizarrely overcomplicated and painfully bland actioner
It might be an idea to put a moratorium on those Henry Golding for James Bond bets. In Assassin Club, the usually-charming actor feels completely out of depth when asked to perform both intense bouts of action and moments of intense rage and sorrow – but even the most smarmy and physical performer would struggle with this material. When Morgan (Golding) is offered six high-paying assassination contracts, he’s startled to learn his targets are also assassins all tasked with taking each other out for a shady client. But hopes of a hitman bloodbath are dashed with incredibly laboured plotting that drives the audience deeper into tedium.
Fresh off the back of John Wick: Chapter 4, a new benchmark has been set for assassin brawlers – granted, Assassin Club has only a fraction of John Wick’s budget, but there are tons of contemporary action films that do a little with a lot, transforming low budgets into full-throttled torrents of impactful violence. The hand-to-hand combat in Assassin Club, led by veteran Italian stunt coordinators Claudio Pacifico and Francesco Petrazzi, is reliably well executed, but it’s all let down by a pervading sense of laziness in the rest of the film – there’s no broader sense of rhythm, tension, or focus to the attractive fisticuffs. Director Camille Delamarre (remember The Transporter Refueled?!) has made a film that feels cheap in spirit, one that fundamentally misunderstands what’s appealing about its premise.
Despite trying to keep his murdering day job from his devoted partner Sophie (Daniela Melchior), the news that six assassins have him in their crosshairs sets Morgan off on… an elongated and lethargic journey of visiting the assassins one by one, where others will handily show up when needed. All the assassins are defined in the broadest terms, either by their fighting styles or personalities (the psychopath, the poisoner, the blade artist with daddy issues). Once or twice, Assassin Club makes interesting narrative or visual choices regarding these characters, but the film makes it abundantly clear that it’s not overly fussed about them, dispatching them unceremoniously or sidelining them completely to focus on an uninspired conspiracy plotline.
Delamarre and writer Thomas Dunn are clearly aware of how cool something like Assassin Club could be, but wind up giving us a film that undermines every element that makes the premise exciting. Their biggest offence is eschewing simplicity, complicated their story with convoluted twists and backtracks that sometimes feel like they’ve been glued together in post-production (a good two thirds of the film feature characters laboriously giving exposition at gunpoint). Assassin Club is incredibly appealing in concept, but ends up being the worst kind of bad movie: one that frustrates its audience by not delivering on what should be simply satisfying. We hope for a shot of adrenaline; instead we get a baffling cross-continental slog.
Assassins Club is released in UK cinemas on 14 April.Where to watch