I think it’s fair to say that a few of us will judge a film by a title, I’m often astonished by the amount of people who go to the cinema knowing absolutely nothing about the film they’re about to pay their hard earned money to watch and then feel in some way cheated when they come out (see No Country for Old Men!).
Judging a film by the title is the equivalent of judging a book by the cover – neither is a good idea. Perhaps then you look at the director, the screenwriter or the actors? That will usually have more of an influence but it’s still not that advisable, particularly given the recent trend of films being ‘presented by’ which means absolutely nothing that I can see.
So with that in mind I did exactly what I’m advising you not to do and watched a film based on the title alone. The film in question is Reign of Assassins and is co-directed by John Woo and Su Chao-pin and stars Michelle Yeoh, Jung Woo-sung, Wang Xueqi amongst many others.
The story is muddled at best (though what you’d expect from having co-directors I’m not sure), some scenes come across as amusing when they obviously aren’t meant to be and the love story that runs through the latter part of the film seems disjointed and wooden.
The direction, which you’d expect to be top draw, leaves you frustrated as the camera seems aimed at the wrong parts of the scenes in, what I can only assume, is an attempt to make the fights seem more intense. When the fights do get going there’s flash backs to deal with that occur at some of the worst possible moments leaving you even more frustrated.
As you’d expect with input John Woo there’s a lot of wire work involved (in one scene you can actually see the wires giving it that Thunderbirds touch) which has drawn comparisons with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Don’t believe that for a second, the visuals are a far cry from CTHD. Face/Off is another movie that has drawn comparisons which is purely because the characters changes their faces. But with the often illogical and far-fetched plot it borders on slanderous to suggest this movie is anywhere near as good as those two.
If you can make it to the end of the one hour forty-three running time then you are treated to one of the few scenes that actually works when the love story unfolds in a heart warming way. However it’s a way that you can see coming a mile off.
In a time when Asian films have lost their way a little, spending money on lavish sets and costumes but forgetting about story and action, Reign of Assassins goes some-way to countering that. It just doesn’t manage to go quite far enough.