Assassins (1995)


Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas play rival assassins stealing each others’ contracts. When Stallone discovers the mysterious contractor has hired Banderas to take him out, he teams with a hacker and would-be target (Julianne Moore) to gain the upper hand. This cat-and-mouse thriller is surprisingly more subdued and character-oriented than you might expect from a mid-90s action movie. Stallone gives one of his best performances since Rocky, giving him the chance to play a character full of world-weariness and regret instead of just another action hero. Banderas succeeds in the flashier role of maniacal villain. There’s good chemistry between Stallone and both of his castmates. His relationship with Banderas blends danger with respect, and his scenes with Moore allow a friendship to grow organically, without ever forcing the dreaded ‘love interest’ angle.

The dialogue and characters — courtesy of a screenplay by the soon-to-be-famous Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) — work better than the plotting, which sometimes stretches our suspension of disbelief. The film’s third act could also use some tightening. But under the solid direction of ever-reliable Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon), the three stars carry the piece well across the finish line, buoyed by terrific locations and sharp cinematography from the renowned Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

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