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‘Assassins’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 06, 1995

 


Director:
Richard Donner
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone;
Julianne Moore;
Antonio Banderas
R
Under 17 restricted


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"Assassins," the new Richard Donner gunfest starring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas, is an example of the most expedient sort of big-budget Hollywood filmmaking—noisy, shallow and glibly violent.

As a thriller, the film is both simple and improbable. Robert Rath (Stallone) is the number one gun for hire in the world, the best there is. Miguel (Banderas) wants to be number one. Rath, who has been at the top of his profession for 15 years, is beginning to think about retiring. But he can't get out soon enough to suit Miguel, who develops the nasty habit of showing up whenever Rath has a contract to fulfill.

The issue comes to a head when the contractor who sends Rath his assignments sets up a deal with Miguel to hit the hit man. Rath has been assigned to nab a computer disc and "retire" an American surveillance expert (Julianne Moore), but Miguel interrupts again, taunting Rath over his inability to kill a beautiful woman. "It is not the same as killing a man," Miguel says. "You have to pull the trigger a whole different way."

That the film holds our attention at all is a tribute to Banderas, who writhes and grimaces as if he were trying to crawl out of his own skin. Banderas is an exuberant, big-spirited actor, and his role here allows him to strut and show off for the camera. He's a blast to watch, and because his florid overplaying is in perfect counterpoint to Stallone's monosyllabic terseness, the match turns out to be good for both actors.

As the woman caught in the middle, Moore is beautiful and functional, but more an adornment than a character. On leave from his "Lethal Weapon" series, Donner directs with his usual devotion to speed over wit, sense or substance. On a deeper level, the antagonism between the king and the man who would take his place has a real-life corollary in the Spanish actor's new status as a superstar action hero who can give Stallone a run for his money. In the movie itself, the old star may win the day, but it's the new kid who steals the show.

Assassins is rated R.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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