Assassination Games begins with a quote from everyone’s favorite cranky syphilitic German, Friedrich Nietzsche — a line which sounds like it’d work well, badly dubbed in a Hong Kong kung fu caper.
But this film is a gangster flick starring Ubermensch Jean Claude Van Damme as Vincent Brazil, who’s a heartless murder-for-hire type and not a Chippendale dancer like his name would suggest.
Brazil lives a furtive existence in a hidden apartment, accessed by a lever in an abutting bathroom, complete with lovely art and violins (he’s an amateur violinist) and a pet turtle. Somewhere in Romania (that Eastern Euro action hero tax shelter purgatory), he fashions an existence, identity mostly obscured by a ridiculous poor boy cap. His neighbor is a pimp who beats one of his women (a gorgeous brunette of course), who then takes shelter in Vincent Brazil’s palatial pad. (Now, we’ll let it slide at the moment that a guy whose life is perpetually in danger and whose pad contains what look like priceless museum artifacts, would take in a lady of the evening and give her free rein of the place).
Brazil is given an assignment (“double his normal fee” — Van Damme’s character is paid in diamonds) to take out a drug kingpin, only to find out that someone else wants the same people dead. And that guy is willing to do it for nothing, waiving the usual fee. Why? Because they did something nasty to his wife and she’s ridiculously hooked up to an IV and being tended to by this personal support worker, also with a background in ass-beating.
Now, Assassination Games could’ve had both Steven Seagal AND Vinnie Jones, that perfect second-rate action duo but instead we’ve got Scott Adkins (Expendables 2) as our man Flint, JCVD’s competition.
Minus a half a star for that hackneyed staple of action films, the “you know what? the two of us aren’t that much different” but Assassination Games is a minor treat, with lots of intrigue, double-crossings and even some corrupt Interpol cops for good measure.
Van Damme uses poison-tipped arrows, pistols that look like they might’ve seen action robbing trains during the Great Depression, as well as AKs and high-tech laser guided weaponry.
And of course, Assassination Games comes with lots of ass-kicking.
*** (out of 5)