HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:76
Asian period pieces are slowly becoming less and less common among the Hong Kong films, and even in Japanese films. Thankfully the Korean’s have stepped up their game big time with several great releases that blend period piece history and action with a strange fascination with Serge Leone’s spaghetti western style. “Assassination” is a film that REALLY makes you work for your dinner, and by that I mean you really really have to pay attention to what’s going on as the plotlines get more convoluted and twisted than a bowl of spaghetti. Not to mention the fact that they are as interconnected as said bowl of pasta. I’m not saying that “Assassination” is a bad or poorly conceived film, but it IS one that you really have to pay attention to as the twists, crosses and double crosses start to add up after a while. Especially in a film that hover just under the 2.5 hour mark.
To break down the plot in anything other than a cursory overview would be counterproductive due to the amount of crosses, double crosses and double backs that the plot takes. Needless to say the general plot is fairly straightforward, but the reveals and twists along the way make it much more complex and an effort in remember who is affiliated with who, and what person is ACTUALLY a villain and whom is actually the heroes in the story. The year is 1933, and Korea has been colonized by the expanding war machine of the Japanese army. Shifted over to China, many of the Korean nationals are just begging for the chance to get back at the Japanese. Pushed to the breaking point, the nationals decide that enough is enough and hire a ragtag group of assassins to take out a vicious Japanese General and another bigwig as an act of vengeance for the General’s brutal treatment of the Korean people.
Seems simple enough. Hire some assassins, have them kidnap the Generals daughter and kill the targets. Well there’s more than enough twists along the way, as one of the original nationalists ends up being a double agent for the Japanese, hiring ANOTHER set of assassins to assassinate the original assassins (say that three times fast), and that’s just within the first hour. Throw in a few subplots about children separated at birth, and a lot of fun with secondary set of assassins (interestingly named Hawaii Pistol and his wise cracking assistant who sports a sweeping mustache that would make a 1920’s boxer jealous). Mistaken identity plays a great part of the second half and there’s more than enough action and humor to go around.
“Assassination” very well could have been played extremely seriously, making it a bit more somber and boorish than it actually ended up being. Director Choi blends just the right amount of humor and humanity into the film to tone down the brutality of the situation as well as the insanity of the action. While I had to REALLY pay attention and concentrate on what was going on, the story is more than understandable, and after you rewind a few times to catch up on who is who, and just why they’re doing something it becomes a lot of fun watching the insane action and weird genre mashup that is “Assassination”.
The humor is a bit more sly and dry than what most people are accustomed to in regards to “typical” slapstick Asian humor. When Big Gun finds drops his opposition to Ahn as a female leader when he finds out why she was locked away, or the dead pan prison unlocking scene both exemplify the hilarity without becoming so over the top that it ends up becoming a spoof. As the film goes on the tones shift effortlessly between 1930’s gangster movie, to war movie, back to full on spaghetti western and the beats are even remotely dropped. Things start really picking up in the second half, as Hawai Pistol and the original group of assassins are in Seoul, and the mistaken identify storyline kicks in, but the first half sets up the action nicely, especially with the interactions between Big Gun and Ahn in the beginning.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60313[/img]“Assassination” looks great on Blu-ray with a cornucopia of different visual styles to blend together over the 140 minute runtime. The film opens up with a flashback to years earlier, one that is heavily contrast boosted and make to look glossy and almost dreamlike. When we get to the present with our crew of assassin heroes, things get a bit clearer and more naturally color graded. However when the action starts up and Hawaii Pistol makes his entrance we have entire scenes that are given a very earthy brow and yellow look. Fine detail is exceptional during the crystal clear modern sequences, and even with the heavily graded (almost like a Serge Leone western) sequences we still have lots of visual details and stunning set pieces that look like there was a marriage between Steven Spielberg and John Woo. Blacks are deep and inky, although sometimes they do show some banding and look greyed out during the afore mentioned earthy looking moments.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60321[/img]While the film LOOKS great, it also sounds amazing. Rocking onto Blu-ray with an amazingly powerful and well-crafted 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track, I couldn’t be happier with the Korean track. The film knows when to pull its punches and when to really go to town, as you aren’t overwhelmed with tons of LFE and aggressive surrounds during the dialog scenes, but when the action starts up, boy does it start up. Gunshots whiz over your shoulder, pining off the ground behind you and the LFE hits hard to add some weight to the battles. Surrounds are judiciously used, adding in soft ambient noises when needed, and then putting you right in the center of the action at other times. Little sonic details like the slide of leather along a coat, and the plink of individual rocks as someone stumbles on a loose set are all replicated beautifully to make a wonderfully enveloping track.
Masterfully shot and full of rich historical fun, “Assassination” is a good movie that just takes a bit more effort than sitting back in your chair and vegging out to fully appreciate. There are flaws to be sure, and sometimes you have to think a bit TOO hard, but overall Choi has given us an extremely entertaining and crazy film to enjoy. Audio and video are great, with some small flaws, but for such a film that is so involved, I was a little disappointed with the complete lack of any extras besides the standard previews. The storyline was rife with opportunity for a lot more in the way of cast and crew interaction, but still, the release is more than worth watching.
Starring: Gianna Jun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong
Directed by: Choi Dong-hoon
Written by: Lee Ki-cheol, Choi Dong-hoon
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 140 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 1st 2015
Buy Assassination Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Fun Watch
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