Film: Assassins

Assassins is a 1995 action film, directed by Richard Donner. It involves the competition between two rival assassins, one an older, veteran assassin and the other a reckless younger challenger eager to become the top assassin in the world. The main stars were Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas and Julianne Moore.

The senior assassin is Robert Rath, (Stallone) a rather sober and efficient man who always gets his target while also making a point of minimizing or avoiding collateral damage. However Rath is becoming tired of the job and increasingly thinking of retirement, and whether or not the people he works for will even let him retire. The younger guy is Miguel Bain, (Banderas) who is pretty much a psychopath who turned his hobby into a profession. He is also a competitive rising star in the field and looking for ways to increase his reputation. Undermining or even killing old guys such as Rath is just one more way to do that.

The two first cross paths when they are sent after the same target. Rath tries to force a confrontation and learn who sent Bain, but Bain fights him to a stalemate and escapes. Both of them are once again sent after the same target, this time a woman called Electra (Moore), a surveillance expert and information thief. Someone is very interested in the latest files she stole. Finding himself unable to kill the woman, Rath decides to save her and retire on the spot. Too bad his retirement starts with Bain chasing both of them.

The main scriptwriters, Larry and Andy Wachowski, ended up protesting several changes in their script, which they felt made the final product too different from what they had conceived. This did not prevent them from selling to the same producer, Joel Silver, a second script they had completed alongside Assassins. "The Matrix" would not be ready for release until 1999.

Not to be confused with the Broadway musical of the same name.


This film provides examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: Miguel Bain.
  • Asshole Victim: It's strongly implied that Rath only went after bad guys while he was working as an assassin. Of the two targets we see him (try to) kill, one was another assassin who took all the messy jobs that Rath refused to take, and another a corrupt billionaire who supplied South American death squads.
  • Bad Ass: Both assassins.
  • Bad Habits: Bain dresses as a priest.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Rath's former partner, jasmine, the sunglasses...
  • The Chessmaster: Both Rath and Bain are being manipulated by their employer. Who is an old friend of Rath's that Rath believes he killed long ago.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. Walls and other minor obstructions provide no innate cover throughout the film, and both assassins frequently try to kill each other by shooting right through them.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: The funeral hit, as it's the only occasion the mark is out in the open.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Rath carries out one of these early in the movie, leading him to suspect that he won't just be allowed to retire. He's right.
  • Cop Killer: Miguel Bain is almost casual about blowing away any police officer who gets in his way. When there's a manhunt underway for Miguel, Rath berates him for being so stupid/psycho to attract attention by killing cops.
  • Deliberately Bad Example: Bain in comparison to Rath.
  • Disturbed Doves: Pigeons flock in the opening scene in place of a silenced gunshot, when Rath shoots Nikolai.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Two Interpol agents, guarding a room where their colleagues are setting up a sting operation to try to catch Electra, do this but they can't fool Miguel, who plugs them both (as well as a hotel maid who witnesses the killings) and then confiscates their ID's and weapons.
  • Faking the Dead: Rath's old partner, Nikolai.
  • Foreshadowing/Chess Motifs: Early on, Rath examines an incomplete chess game between him and his former partner Nikolai after Bain whispers "Bishop takes Rook Pawn". The move turns out to be the Greek gift sacrifice, a powerful attack. This foreshadows that Rath is an Unwitting Rook Pawn, and his original opponent is The Chessmaster.
  • Gunpoint Banter: Justified as Rath and Bain are talking in a stolen taxi with a sheet of bulletproof glass between them. And Bain still tries to shoot Rath anyway, just in case the glass isn't tough enough.
  • Guns Akimbo: Assassin Miguel Bain frequently duel wields pistols on his missions.
  • History Repeats: Taken almost to extremes.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Rath, but not Bain.
  • Hot-Blooded: Miguel Bain.
  • Large Ham: Bain. A lot.
  • Licked by the Dog: Electra's cat taking a liking to Rath is one indication that he's at least a half-decent guy despite being a contract killer.
  • Meaningful Name: Rath, Bane... er, Bain, and Electra.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: You probably don't want to get involved with a guy named Rath or a girl named Electra who apparently cares more about her cat than men.
  • Neck Snap: After Bain is arrested and put in a police car, he disposes of a cop sitting in the driver's seat by kicking out the side window and breaking his neck from behind.
  • Not My Driver: Rath uses a stolen taxi to pull this on Bain, but he realizes what's happening just in time.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Miguel kills Rath's boss/partner because he wants to be "Number 1" and for this, he has to kill Rath himself. It doesn't work.
  • Professional Killer: If you couldn't tell from the title.
  • Psycho for Hire: Bain.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Bain and Rath, both assassins, but with wildly different mannerisms and temperaments.
  • Resignations Not Accepted
  • Room Disservice: Played with. Rath is more than aware of this tactic, and is very suspicious (and has his gun ready) when room service comes knocking, but Electra confirms that she did actually order something.
    Rath: You should tell me these things!
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Rath's former partner. Subverted.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "That's no way to talk to a lady". Appears twice on a computer screen, revealing that Rath and Bain have the same employer, and then spoken later by Nikolai.
  • Survivor Guilt: Rath has this regarding the death of Nikolai.
  • That's What I Would Do: Rath can anticipate some of Bain's moves because it's just what he would have done. (Or did).
    • This is also because Bain has a thing for reproducing old assassinations, including one he got from Roman history.
  • Unknown Rival: Miguel Bain.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Both Rath and Bain are being manipulated by their employer, Rath's old friend Nikolai.
  • Visual Pun: Miguel loses his rifle when he's slammed up against an anti-NRA sign.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Bain has no compunctions whatsoever about killing women; not only does he kill a female Interpol agent and a hotel maid in the course of his attempt to get to Electra, he threatens Electra with cutting her heart out after he fails to intercept the data she's sending, and only a little bit later kills another innocent woman who's walked into the middle of the gun battle between himself and Rath in Electra's apartment building.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Invoked by Bain when he prepares to snipe a nearby girl playing football to make Rath back down, knowing that his rival holds the opposite view.