Assassin (2023), directed by Jesse Atlas, is Bruce Willis’ last movie, and the hype surrounding it was fueled by the anticipation of the legendary actor going out on a high note.
Given the quality or lack thereof, of most of his later career output, it seemed almost pointless to hope that he would go out with a bang.
Working with Jesse V. Johnson on White Elephant was probably his last chance at redemption, but could we at least hope that his last on-screen appearance wouldn’t be another embarrassment?
In Assassin, Willis plays the role of Valmora, the head of a private military operation. Alexa (Nomzamo Mbatha, Coming 2 America, A Hotel Called Memory), who is angry and wants answers, confronts him after her husband Sebastian (Mustafa Shakir, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Luke Cage), a drone pilot, ends up in a coma after a work-related accident. The story tracks a former black-ops soldier who replaces a deceased individual in an experimental military initiative to uncover the identity of his killer.
The cast of Assassin (2023) also includes Andy Allo, Dominic Purcell, Eugenia Kuzmina, Fernanda Andrade, Vanessa Vander Pluym, Hannah Quinlivan, Dustin Quick, and Andrea Lareo.
Despite the plot, Assassin (2023) is a very low-tech and low-budget film. So, don’t expect flashy effects or much actual science-fiction content. When Alexa takes over a body, she does so by putting on a wetsuit and lying in a bathtub full of ice located in their hideout, an abandoned factory.
It is not clear how that, a light, and a laptop connected her to a chip in the target’s brain. All we’re told is “the brain is just an electrical system.”
However it works, it allows us to get several short scenes where Alexa hops into a body, kills some person we know nothing about, and then leaves the “drone” to suffer jail or worse.
The exception is an artist named Mali, played by Andy Allo, whom Adrian admires. Alexa pops in and out of her body to stay close to him and locate the microchip. This leads to complications since Mali has no clue about what Alexa does in her body.
There’s also a scene where Alexa becomes trapped in Mali’s body and ends up in the hideout looking at her own body in the tub. Again, no explanation is given for how this happened, and the viewer is just expected to accept it, something that’s actually true of far too many things in Assassin.
Director Jesse Atlas said that Assassin is an exploration of identity. The evolution of drone warfare from remotely piloting machinery to remotely inhabiting another person raises important questions about what it means to truly be oneself.
Can we retain our identity when the face in the mirror is not our own? How do we navigate our psyche when cognitive dissociation becomes a daily routine? What kind of memory is imprinted when a complete stranger wraps you in an intimate embrace, and you feel their touch on skin that isn’t actually yours?
Assassin (2023) is not a film for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Bruce Willis, you’ll enjoy seeing him in his last on-screen performance. The movie makes an attempt to delve into profound inquiries, but it does not provide significant depth.
The acting is passable, but nothing extraordinary, and the script could have used more work. The lack of explanation for some crucial aspects of the plot, like how Alexa is able to take over another person’s body, makes it hard to follow.
We would give 3 out of 5.
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