‘Assassin Club’ Review: Henry Golding Looks the Part of a Globetrotting Hitman in By-the-Book Actioner

As befits its title, “Assassin Club,” begins with an elaborate action-heavy murder. Throughout the almost two hours it takes to unfold, the audience witnesses a few more. These intrigues unfold in a few European locales, though the locations are hardly striking, just places where the illusion of globetrotting can be created on a budget. It’s a B-movie through and through, yet one made with panache and attention to the action scenes. Director Camille Delamarre choreographs and shoots combat set-pieces in an exciting manner.

Henry Golding plays a master hitman whose latest mission is to find and kill six other assassins — the “club” of the title, though only one of his marks really matters. What transpires is more of a cat-and-mouse game between Golding’s killer and another one played by Noomi Rapace. Sam Neill lurks in the background and on the phone as Golding’s handler, who assigns the missions and offers platitudes instead of dialogue.

Bringing uncommon sensitivity to such a role, Golding’s character might be a killer, but his girlfriend (Daniela Melchior) is a school teacher and he only kills bad guys — or so he thinks. Understandably, Thomas C. Dunn’s script wants to create a lead character the audience can root for, but it’s so implausible that this killer should have a conscience that it’s hard to argue when another assassin makes fun of him for it.

That’s still not as egregious as the convoluted plot that demands too much attention from the audience for what is supposed to be an easy, breezy bit of escapism. There are a few more characters than needed, a few too many betrayals and setbacks to keep track of. All of it is supposed to add a sense of gravity to the proceedings but just ends up complicating what should’ve been a straightforward shoot-’em-up.

No matter since action is what counts here, and the film delivers on that front. It’s all fast-edited and thrillingly shot, as “Assassin Club” careens from one set-piece to the next with admirable verve. Particularly exciting are the hand-to-hand combat fights, much more than the instances where guns are used. The combat choreography is helped by chop/chop quick cuts that are both exciting and easy to follow. The same style of rapid edits proves disorienting, even annoying when applied to other scenes, as when the plot is laid out in voiceover.

With Daniel Craig hanging his hat as James Bond, there’s plenty of speculation and opinions about who should become the next actor to take on that popular role. Golding appears on many such lists, and it could be argued that “Assassin Club” is his audition reel. As the star proved in “Crazy Rich Asians,” he has the romantic chops, demonstrated once again in his rapport with Melchoir,, which reinforces his reputation as a matinee idol. He also acquits himself well in the action scenes, bringing an agility that registers gracefully on screen, as if he were gliding through meadows rather than fighting bad guys. Your move, casting directors.

Melchior matches Golding beat for beat in the intimate scenes with a knowing slyness, though she doesn’t get much else to do, since her character is nothing more than the stereotype of the angelic damsel in distress. Neill and Rapace have more screen time and slightly more complex characters, but are still boxed in by their characters’ boss and rival labels.

What “Assassin Club” lacks in fully developed characters, it more than makes up for in kinetic thrills. Golding proves that he can carry both the romantic and physical aspects of such a project, while looking delectable, and that’s probably as much as the audience for this film expects.

Leave a Reply

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