What a club to be part of, although Henry Golding and Noomi Rapace look not too pleased to be here. Who can blame them? As they join up with Camille Delamarre, director of the third Transporter film, they find themselves in the throes of an empty action feature. Those are all too common and what is even worse is the talent on display, the lack of proper utilisation and the heartlessness of it all. At a time when John Wick rightly dominates, the chance to make a scrappy underdog version of that was ripe and inevitable for the picking. Enlisting Sam Neill and Daniela Melchior are strong positives but there are still major missing pieces never quite recovered here. Delamarre’s loss is our loss also. Charmless action tropes which was one stumble away from having Kelsey Grammer instead of Neill.
Still, Grammer could have been fun instead of the half-hearted attempts Neill makes here. Grammer is in the business of hamming it up as best he can, truly trying to have fun with the setting and displaying an unhinged portrayal with worrying consistency. Instead, Assassin Club features a slate of talent better suited to stronger scripts. Beyond a cast who cannot care is a director whose inability to hold a camera steady or in focus is unmatched. Incredible how amateurish Assassin Club may feel, it goes so much worse when the action relies on time delays, Scooby-Doo pratfalls and terribly sloppy assassin work. Assassin Club fails to make its assassins competent, and as such, has trouble convincing viewers of any real danger.
Lacking competence appears to spread right through this feature, a pale and woeful attempt to blur the comical nature of Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre with genuine thrill and feeling. Of course, it does not work. From Neill monologuing over the phone to introducing generic Russian caricatures who serve as hardened villains or emotionless drones to provide punchy latter moments when the going gets tough. Even the setting of Assassin Club hopes to rip the John Wick: Chapter 4 momentum. It is as though Delamarre was present on set, running around and jotting down notes with a broken pencil, he ends up with a collection of words and rambled, misconfigured syllables which he translated into “give Golding a gun and hope for the best.” He does hope. That is all he has behind the camera, crossed fingers and closed eyes.
So too do the audience as they wince in boredom at the extreme close-ups of confused-looking characters who are spoken to about incidents which probably concern them. Who knows. Assassin Club has all the momentum of a ship trapped diagonally in a canal. No wiggle room for reversing out of the continuing troubles it finds itself in. Even the CGI fire Neill sips whisky by is trying to leave with its dignity intact. Very few manage such a move and Assassin Club soon serves as a withering reminder of the state of the action genre when it is not backed by tens of millions. Directors must do with what they have and what Delamarre has is more than enough to construct a solid thriller with a usual selection of twists and turns. He is the sorely out-of-place piece of this particularly easy and unchallenging puzzle, and it makes this Golding-led thriller a real snooze and slog to get through.