Friday Fisticuffs: Assassination Games (2011)

While flipping through the action section of Netflix’s Instant offerings, there’s a few things I look for. First off, the star. If a movie has Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham or Steven Segal, I at least give it a read through and check if I’ve seen it before. I also like ones with guns and a lack of a woman on the poster/DVD cover because that means it hopefully won’t get caught up too much in that trope of a hardened assassin falling for a woman and getting out of the game after doing one more score. So, when I came across the images of Assassination Games with it’s cool title, guns and JCVD, I was sold. Plus, I vaguely remembered Scott Adkins’ name and face from a few other things and figured it’d be worth a Friday Fisticuffs entry.

And it was, though I must admit, I was surprised by this film. Not only did both men have women who made them question their lives as hitmen, but they wound up not facing off against one another for the whole film, instead teaming up to take down a drug dealer who had beef with both of them individually and vice versa.

I was also surprised that the movie actually looked cool. A lot of these things are simply shot and put out, but director Ernie Barbarash prefers to use a specific kind of color pallet which, for the most part looks pretty cool. However, it’s not perfect. There’s an entire fight scene where everything in the scene is shades of tan. EVERYTHING. The people, their clothes, the background, the boxes in the warehouse, it was all tan or brown and kind of blended together. But, again, I appreciate the effort and am curious to see Barbarash’s other flicks.

So it looks good and it’s got pretty cool action stars in Van Damme and Adkins, who was Bourne Ultimatum (no idea which one that is) and also played the messed up version of Deadpool from the end of the Wolverine flick which makes him a recurring actor here on FF. The story’s pretty standard, but there are a few things in there to make it more interesting. Van Damme has a kind of secret hideout thing going in an apartment building. He walks into one room in the building which is all crappy and then hits a secret level in the bathroom that leads into a nice, swank pad. This plays almost no role in the film after the girl shows up, but it was cool. There’s also a robot gun that shoots whatever you shine a laser pointer at. You can’t go wrong with a cool robot gun.

As always, the real question with Friday Fisticuffs is, how were the fights? Well, there weren’t that many. Since these guys are assassins they use guns, crossbows and knives, but there are a few pretty rad fight scenes. The best of the bunch is between Adkins and Van Damme. What I like about the ones in this movie is that they’re not showy or set-piecey. They’re hardcore, fast and utilitarian, but the camera work isn’t all crazy and cutty, so you can see what’s going on. I like that.

I checked out the film’s Wiki page and found out some interesting things. Apparently, the film was supposed to originally feature Steven Segal playing opposite JCVD, but he dropped out. Then Vinnie Jones was going to join in, but the part wound up going to Adkins. Both of those other possibilities are interesting to think about, but I like how this one turned out. Adkins is a pretty solid actor and definitely has the fighting chops, so I’m curious to check out his other movies, like the upcoming Universal Soldier: A New Dimension starring himself, JCVD AND Dolph Lundgren or Ninja which is on Instant. The more action movie icon movie team-ups the better!

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