Richard Donner has done it again.
While there may be no new “Lethal Weapons” on the horizon, the successful filmmaker has found another way to scratch his action itch with “Assassins,” a killer of a suspenseful thriller packing a trio of powderkeg performances.
Taut, smart and irresistible, the slick Warner Bros. release should effortlessly hit its target at the box office, where it’s assured a long and healthy life.
Sylvester Stallone, at his tight-lipped, stoic best, is Robert Rath, a Cold War assassin who’s finding that the job just isn’t the same thanks to glasnost. While he still works as a hired gun, his sense of duty has been distorted.
One final contract gives the disillusioned Rath the financial freedom to permanently retire his arsenal. But he discovers his turf has been invaded by Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas), a ruthless, ambitious killer who is determined to overtake the man who inspired him.
At the center of this battle for ascendancy is Electra (Julianne Moore), a cunning surveillance expert whose possession of stolen information has made her Wrath’s latest mark. Bain, meanwhile, has every intention of beating him at his own game and the trio end up forming an intriguing dynamic.
Donner and debuting screenwriters Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, with an assist from Brian Helgeland, have hatched up a psychological thriller with a rare emphasis on the psychological.
While there is plenty of producer Joel Silver’s patented hyped-up action to be found, the filmmakers don’t feel obligated to keep things going full tilt. The picture has its equal share of quiet, edge-of-the-seat suspense that proves to be just as effective.
Stallone, shifting into elder-statesman mode, brings a nice weariness to the role, in contrast to Banderas’ driven energy. Following closely on the heels of “Desperado,” Banderas plays the part of the bad guy with gusto, conveying an almost manic intensity.
Moore ably holds up her end in this testosterone-heavy face-off.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Assassins” Location: East Sprague, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Richard Donner, starring Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore, Anatoly Davydov, Muse Watson, Stephen Kahan Running time: 2:13 Rating: R