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Film / Assassins

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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, Lana and Lilly 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.

Assassins was one of the first four films to be released on DVD when the format debuted in Japan in 1996, together with The Fugitive, Eraser, and Blade Runner: The Director's Cut.

No relations to the Broadway musical of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Our protagonist, Robert Rath.
  • Ax-Crazy: Miguel Bain is quite indiscriminate in his slaughter and takes it as a game.
  • 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 Habits: Bain dresses as a priest.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Miguel is arrested by the police after the cemetery shoot-out and being driven in the back of a police car, as the cops are inspecting his weapons he says "Cuidado con las armas, que las carga el diablo". This roughly translates to: "Be careful with the guns, they were loaded by the devil".
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Rath goes to a bank with a very large suitcase to empty his account, while Bain waits outside with a sniper rifle to blow his head off. Rath is running a Batman Gambit; given the time it takes to convert all that money to cash, Bain will become impatient and start worrying that Rath slipped out another entrance. Eventually he'll go into the bank to check, but must leave his rifle behind which Electra can then steal. As he explains all this beforehand, naturally things don't go according to plan.
  • Chekhov's Gun: 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.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Bain is incredibly foul-mouthed, especially when things don't go his way.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Rath pulls this on Electra during his Heel–Face Turn.
  • 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.
    • The recurring setup at the bank certainly counts as well. Rarely has a movie sniper been more obvious.
  • 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 (including a whole team of Interpol agents trying to run a sting operation on Electra) who gets in his way. When there's a manhunt underway for Bain, Rath berates him for being so stupid/psycho to attract attention by killing cops.
  • The Cracker: Electra is a tech wiz who sells confidential information to the highest bidder. Unfortunately for her, she appears to consider this dangerous and highly illegal line of work an exciting adventure. It doesn't take long for her to bite off more than she can chew.
  • Damsel in Distress: For all her skill as a hacker, Electra is way out of her depth and probably would have been killed on multiple occasions if not for Rath.
  • Deliberately Bad Example: Bain in comparison to Rath. Rath tries to have a code (no innocents, only people who deserved it) and has no love for what he does, while Bain is a Blood Knight who has no problem killing people to bait his target, shoot cops and threaten to kill children to get what he wants.
  • Disturbed Doves: Pigeons flock in the opening scene in place of a silenced gunshot, when Rath shoots Nikolai.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Two of Bain's victims are good-looking blondes. The first one is a Dutch Interpol agent who is staging a Fake-Out Make-Out with her partner in the hallway outside the room where the rest of their team are dealing with Electra. Her shapely legs, encased in black stockings and stiletto-heeled shoes, are on prominent display as Bain drags her dead body into an empty hotel room to hide it alongside that of her partner and a hotel maid who had the bad luck to witness the killings. The second one is Electra's neighbor, who surprises Bain, who has invaded Electra's apartment and is in the midst of a shootout with Rath. Bain, thinking she's Electra, shoots the unfortunate woman in the back.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Bain, as a foil to Rath's calm professionalism. "YOU BLEW IT! I AM STILL ALIVE!"
  • 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 opponent, 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 dual-wields pistols on his missions, which is just one of many signs that he isn't nearly as professional as he thinks he is.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: During the Day of the Dead festival sequence, Miguel talks to two women who sold him liquor (but do not speak English) and rants about how he is a hitman who has put many people in the ground. Between this, his tone of voice and bombastic body language, it's pretty obvious they did not understood him at all.
  • History Repeats: Taken almost to extremes. Bain's actively trying to force it, which Rath takes advantage of.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Rath, but not Bain. Somewhat deconstructed, since it's revealed right at beginning of the movie that his employers just sent another guy whenever he refused to kill someone and that Rath is fully aware of this.
  • Hollywood Law: Interpol does not have field agents and cannot arrest anyone, so there are no gun-wielding sting operations. The organization simply networks national police forces to help them solve crimes. While flattering, they're also not comparable to the CIA, as Rath claims.
  • Hollywood Silencer: All over the place. The guns without one are actually in the minority as far as screentime is concerned. Even people who have no logical reason to have a silencer on their pistols - such as the two Interpol agents Bain kills in the hotel hallway - carry firearms equipped in this way.
  • Hollywood Tactics: No sniper worth their salt would take up position as close to the window as Rath and Bain do while waiting for their target to leave the bank. The only reason nobody sicced the cops on a guy with a rifle squatting in plain sight in a window frame is that people in this film generally don't react to the sight of guns.
  • Hot-Blooded: Miguel Bain.
  • Interpol Special Agent: They conduct a sting against Electra, which gets them all killed by Bain.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Day of the Dead in this case. Bain appreciates the irony.
  • 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 halfway-decent guy despite being a contract killer.
  • The Load: Electra isn't completely useless, but every time Rath formulates a plan, Electra will find a way to derail it and get them in trouble, usually by ignoring his sound advice and going full Leeroy Jenkins instead.
  • MacGuffin: The disc containing information about the organization of assassins.
  • Made of Iron: Bain takes an enormous amount of abuse throughout the film but always gets back up for another go at Rath. It's just one more sign that he isn't nearly as good as he thinks he is since Rath barely suffers a scratch during their short-lived rivalry.
  • Meaningful Name: Rath and Bain are homophones for "wrath" and "bane." Electra shares her name with a mythological figure who takes vengeance.
  • Mistaken Identity: Bain kills Electra's roommate, believing she was her.
  • Mysterious Employer: Robert Rath is a hitman who never meets his employer face to face, communicating only by text through a secured connection. Apparently it's the same deal with all his employees. His identity turns out to be Nikolai, Rath's old mentor whose "death" still haunts him.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: You probably don't want to get involved with guys named Rath or Bain or a girl named Electra.
  • 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. Using only one hand.
  • Not My Driver: Rath uses a stolen taxi to pull this on Bain, but he realizes what's happening just in time.
  • Offhand Backhand: Rath is able to shoot Bain even through he's standing behind him, thanks to Electra deliberately putting on her sunglasses to show his reflection.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Rath is a veteran hitman and Bain is, in many ways, a Young Gun.
  • Only in It for the Money: Rath wants to quit but he keeps coming back because of money. However it's not a case of Every Man Has His Price; he's offered double fee to let his victim go in the opening scene. Rath doesn't bother to respond and the victim (a fellow hitman) is embarrassed at even having made the offer, as it implies he's Ain't Too Proud to Beg like a typical mark.
  • 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.
  • The Perils of Being the Best: Rath and Nikolai were legendary Cold War assassins. After Rath killed Nikolai, Bain regarded Rath as the superior assassin, adopting his weaponry and studying his methods. Unfortunately Bain also thinks he must kill Rath in turn to become Number One himself.
    Bain: He thought you were his friend, and now I know...that was how you took him. You killed him to be Number One.
  • 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: Rath wants to quit, but it's obvious from the start that the organization he works for won't let it happen. After Nikolai is killed, Rath tells Bain to just tell everybody he killed Rath and let him walk away, but Bain decides to kill him for real right then and there because it's the only way he will accept being given the position as number one assassin.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Bain figures out where Electra is by checking which car was used recently enough for the hood to be warm. He gets it right, but she arrived on foot and it's a complete coincidence.
  • 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 Nikolai. Subverted. He only faked his death and he's been Rath's boss this entire time.
  • Skewed Priorities: Electra's survival instincts are clearly in need of some recalibration. When armed killers are after you, you don't fuss about your cat or leave your hideout to go sightseeing - you run or keep your head down until the guy who obviously knows how these things work tells you otherwise.
  • 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 handler, 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.
  • There Can Be Only One: At the end of the movie, Rath offers to retire leaving Bain as the best hitman in the world. Bain appears to accept, but then points out that as long as Rath is alive, he'll never truly be Number One.
  • Too Dumb to Live: It's borderline miraculous that Electra survived in her line of work for as long as she did, given how reckless she is about... well, just about anything. Best exemplified when she describes herself as an impossible-to-find ghost, only for Rath to point out that neither he nor Bain had any trouble tracking her down by following various trails she left - trails anyone with a lick of common sense would've known to avoid.
  • Trouble Entendre: The victim is called the 'mark'.
  • Unknown Rival: Miguel Bain was obsessed with killing Rath and taking his spot as number one assassin long before Rath had even heard of him.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Civilians in this film seem to have a visual firearms filter installed. If you took a shot every time someone waves a gun around in public without anyone making a fuss about it, you'd be hospitalized by the time the credits roll.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Both Rath and Bain are being manipulated by their employer, Rath's old friend Nikolai.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Rath uses a computer to talk to his contract provider. The chat program he uses has a whopping two lines of text, probably to accommodate the enormous fonts. It's also incredibly noisy, with constant prompts for inputs.
  • 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 police officer, 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 (though likely under the mistaken belief that she's Electra).
  • 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.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: Rath misses a chance to kill Bain after he's arrested and cuffed at the cemetery, because it would mean killing police. Bain kills those officers a short time later during his escape, and later several Interpol officers.
  • Young Gun: The psychopathic Bain challenging ex-Cold War veteran Rath for the position of number one hitman in the world. And by challenge he means kill, even when Rath is ready to retire and let Bain walk away with the title.