The Assassin – Yet another case of the Emperor’s New Clothes!
I am not a particular fan of the Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwan historical, martial arts type dramas – where the heroes/heroines are able to leap twenty feet into the air and land fatal blows on their numerous opponents -often dozens at a time – in one fell swoop.
But through the years, I’ve seen a few good ones, both on TV and at the cinema.
Pride of place must go to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which is certainly a masterpiece of the genre.
So it was with some excitement and anticipation that I read about The Assassin winning awards in Cannes and being feted as a work of genius by the top critics.
I a referring to such statements as:
“Perhaps the most ravishingly beautiful film Hou has ever made, and certainly one of his most deeply transporting…”
And New Yorker:
“At its most persuasive, it conjures live-action versions of classical Chinese paintings, as if Hou were more at ease with the settings and stakes than with the personalities….”
And from the guardian: (5 stars)
“The Assassin arrives here after a sensational premiere in Cannes last year, where its hypnotic adagio earned Hou the director’s prize and connoisseurs hailed it as a masterpiece….”
And the Telegraph: (5 stars)
“Taiwanese director Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s Palme d’Or contender is a martial arts saga like no other – and one of the prettiest films you’ll ever see…“
It goes on and on. Almost every professional critic on the planet seems to think this movie is truly a wonder to behold.
I wish I’d read some of the negative reviews from the movie-going public before I wasted over two hours of my time watching such rubbish.
I’m sorry, but any movie that devotes almost 60 seconds to filming a guard walking onto a balcony, walking off, then back again, then off again for no discernible reason, in my book is taking the proverbial piss.
The plot, such as it is, is set in the 9th century and involves a general’s daughter who was kidnapped by a nun who trains her in martial arts. The nun then sends her to assassinate her cousin to whom she was betrothed and who is now a powerful leader.
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Romance, revenge, betrayal, loads of martial arts and so on…
If I’d only read the common man’s reviews. Here are a few excerpts:
Cinematic Masterpiece of Nothing
“Not sure what the fuss was about. This is no Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This is a convoluted mess with annoying people standing around doing absolutely nothing but modelling old Chinese apparel. Am I supposed to be super genius to understand the plot of this movie? Or was I merely zombie-fied by the boredom of every scene that I totally missed the plot of this movie? There is no substance in this movie, no memorable action, nada. I can’t even understand why people call this a cinematic masterpiece. Oh, there were scenes alright, scenes of people standing still and fog moving around….”
“I walked out of the cinema feeling like I’d watched a four-hour film, only to be told by the rest of the world that only two hours had gone by. Is Hou a Time Lord? Did I just have a Time And Relative Dimension In Space experience and not realise it?..”
“A Never-Ending, Sleep-Inducing Period Piece Disguised As A Martial Arts Flick”
Was there ever such a contrast between what the ‘experts’ think, and what the cinema-going public think? IMDB contains pages and pages of negative comments, similar to those shown above.
Some of you may recall in my Oscars ’round up’ last year that I didn’t hold back on how execrable I considered the Oscar-winning Birdman to be. In my opinion, it was another example of a film feted by the critics and totally rejected by the public who voted with their feet.
Actually, The Birdman is far better than The Assassin, even though I wrote:
“…a piece of self-indulgent nonsense made by a totally self-absorbed industry and reviewed by totally self-absorbed movie ‘insiders’, who think that the world at large is interested in their own egotistical torments….”
But there is no denying that unlike The Assassin, it did have a story to tell, and there was genuine drama and emotion and there was some pretty good acting going on.
The Assassin has absolutely nothing going on. Even the couple of martial arts scenes were over in seconds. Honestly, I think I would prefer to watch goldfish swim in a glass bowl than have to sit through this movie again. If you weren’t informed of the plot in subtitles at the start, you probably wouldn’t have the least idea what was going on … as I say… mainly nothing.
Ironically, one of the few positive reviews written by one of the movi-going ‘erks, who believe it or not, actually compared The Assassin with The Birdman – but in a good way. The producers of Birdman should sue for slander.
If you need a good sleep, and a cinema is the only place you can get a nap in comfort, then go and see The Assassin. It’ll work like magic – better than diazepam any day of the week.
The Assassin now joins Lost in Translation as the two most illustrious movies in which nothing actually happens. But at least in ‘Translation’ we had the gorgeous Scarlet Johansson to lust over…
For those who may be interested in reading my full review of Birdman, click: