Have you ever noticed that, according to Hollywood, assassins are cool? Who can argue that James Bond is the epitome of cool? I've never met an assassin (that I know of), and I don't really want to, but I have a feeling they're not all so cool and fashionable. I reviewed Killers a while back (here), with the supposedly charming and sexy Ashton Kutcher starring as an assassin. Here are a few more recent movies with a variety of assassins.
The most stylish assassins are, of course, English, as we learn in Faster. They're also cocky, well-traveled, and brilliant. Right. "Killer" (the character is unnamed in the movie) fits that description, but he may have met his match in Driver (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Driver, just out prison, goes on a killing spree seeking revenge for his brother's killing, but he's got Killer coming after him, too. Killer turns out to be a disappointment, and not even the cool action sequences, Johnson's tough guy acting, and Billy Bob Thornton's cop character can rescue this bungled mess.
Speaking of bungled messes and convoluted plots, whoever is responsible for Operation: Endgame ought to have a contract on his movie career. It's not without its clever spots, unexpected twists, and quirky characters, but for the most part, this one was painful to sit through. Two rival teams of government assassins meet up in a secret underground facility and start killing each other off. I won't bother you with the why. It's a motley group, with some messy killing, and few laughs.
The assassin in Machete is actually quite the opposite of the stylish, sophisticated operative of the prior two movies. The title character, played by scary-looking tough guy Danny Trejo, was hired to kill a senator, but then realizes he's being set up, so he sets out for revenge. (Assassins can be pretty vengeful.) The result is a violent, bloody mess, but this is actually a pretty good movie, if graphic yet purposeful violence doesn't drive you away. One thing I love about Machete is its origin. It started as a fake trailer for Grindhouse, but fans wanted to see the movie, so viola, here it is.
The final assassin movie for today is the much more mainstream Red. You wouldn't know it by his boring persona now, but Bruce Willis is a retired assassin. When someone starts coming after him, he has to visit some of his old colleagues to figure out who has the hit on him. Along the way, his dream girl, who he's never met face to face, gets stuck in the middle of it. Also starring Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, Red has plenty of star power, the brand of action/humor we expect when Willis is on the screen, and a clever conspiracy and revenge plot, all of which combine for a satisfying flick. Red also features Rebecca Pidgeon, whom I loved in The Spanish Prisoner and who does not get enough big roles. I think she's terrific.
There may be a place in this world for an assassin. Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously played a part in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler. I guess you could call Seal Team 6 assassins. But I have a feeling that real-life assassins of whatever stripe would scoff at their big screen portrayals. In the meantime, the mystique is there, and will be as long as Bond novels are written and others want to share his success, even if most efforts miss the mark (so to speak).