Assassins wasn’t well received upon its release back in 1995 but even back then, I enjoyed the heck out of it thanks to the sharp dialogue, well written plot (even if the finale is predictable) and fine performances from Sylvester Stallone and Julianne Moore. This Blu-ray release is pretty good with audio and video transfers which make this a no-brainer upgrade over its DVD counterpart.
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
Warner Bros. | R – 133 min. – $19.99 | August 16, 2011
Directed by: Richard Donner
Writer(s): Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski, Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski and Brian Helgeland (screenplay)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore
Theatrical Release Date: October 6, 1995
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), German (Dolby Digital 5.1), Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
Disc Size: 22.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): Region Free
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Plot Summary (from Blu-ray back cover): Robert Rath (SYLVESTER STALLONE) is the best hitman around, but the code and sense of duty once part of his deadly career are lost in a post-Cold War world of freelance guns. He wants out. Not so Miguel Bain (ANTONIO BANDERAS), a driven killer who knows how to claim the top spot of his shadowy profession: eliminate Rath. As Rath and Bain cross paths, their latest encounter involves hacker Electra (JULIANNE MOORE) who is in possession of an encrypted disc that seemingly everyone wants from Interpol to the very employer who hired Rath and Bain to retrieve it… and take Electra out.
Assassins is actually one of my personal favorite second-tier Sylvester Stallone movies (his first tier include Rocky, Rocky II, Cop Land and First Blood while films such as Demolition Man, Cliffhanger, The Expendables comprise the second tier) thanks in large part to a half clever script, even if you can see the twist coming 3 miles away, and some sharp dialogue by the Wachowski Brothers (if anyone remembers, they actually wrote and directed The Matrix!) and Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential).
The acting is also fairly even keel with Stallone taking the quiet approach to his Rath character, a tired soul living with the demons of his past actions including eliminating his Russian counterpart 15 years earlier. Julianne Moore for her part isn’t bad as she fills in the harrowing female damsel role well enough and has the right charisma to make us care about her character, which is saying a lot given she’s a glorified peeping Jane as her only human interaction being spying on her neighbors via hidden cameras she somehow installed (they’re hardwired in to the building electricity). And then you have Antonio Banderas… Yeah, he’s generally an OK actor able to adapt to whatever genre film he’s in (see the Spy Kids movies vs. Rodriguez’s El Mariachi movies). Here he can get a bit campy even though he was trying for intense and dangerous and a suitable foil to Rath, obsessed with becoming the best hitman in the world. It’s a decent performance but certainly the weaker aspect to the film.
I know this isn’t a great movie and yet it manages to entertain me throughout and having seen it a few times over the years, I can say it’s kept the same entertainment value then as it has now. I would say it’s also an underrated flick garnering a wretched 9% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and even only 52% amongst users). In any event, I liked this movie when I first saw it the mid-late 1990s, no doubt on VHS, to just the other day now on Blu-ray. No, it’s not a great movie and it is highly predictable, but Stallone gives a finely reserved role while Banderas, albeit out of his element, is good enough to be film’s primary antagonist.
The movie was directed by Richard Donner who, throughout the lengthy 130-minute running time, manages to keep the pacing and suspense going from beginning to the final frame. As I mentioned, Assassins was the brainchild of the Wachowski Brothers (credited for the story and screenplay) with Brian Helgeland brought in at some point later to probably add some dialogue and plot points to complete the project.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0.5/5
The only feature included is the Theatrical Trailer (2:42; SD).
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Assassins shoots its way onto Blu-ray with a 1080p high-def and a MPEG-4 AVC codec on a 25GB single-layered disc. The movie looks excellent in HD and at times actually pops off the screen, as it did in the opening scene as Rath marches his latest mark into the swamp to “retire”. There are green blades of grass set against the darker swamp and white, cloud-filled, skies. Other elements also look quite good and the detail level, although not the best compared with other films from around the same time, also is decent. The picture itself was void of any flaws like dust marks and scratches and yet at the same time there’s a fine amount of natural film grain and noise to give that quality film-like look to the transfer.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in the meantime has a wide array of audio elements. First, as you can imagine, there’s plenty of action that gives off the most depth (making use of the front and rear channels) to the lossless track, and it certainly does, but it’s the quieter moments, such as the opening scene which is dialogue driven with some sounds of nature, which makes this a well rounded track. My only complaint is that the LFE channel doesn’t click on very often but otherwise fans of the film should be impressed.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Assassins wasn’t well received upon its release back in 1995 but even back then, I enjoyed the heck out of it thanks to the sharp dialogue, well written plot (even if the finale is predictable) and fine performances from Sylvester Stallone and Julianne Moore while Antonio Banderas fills the antagonist role well enough even if it’s uneven, although maybe that’s how he was told to approach it. In any case, this Blu-ray release is pretty good with audio and video transfers which make this a no-brainer upgrade over its DVD counterpart.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out more screen caps on page 2.