ASSASSINS RUN – DVD review

Former ballerina and Mrs. World 2006 winner Sofya Skya stars and co-directs (along with Robert Crombie) the action/revenge story “Assassins Run.”  The film is kind of “Taken” meets “Haywire” with the heroine Maya (Skya)  fighting her way through and outsmarting bad guy after bad guy in order to get her young, kidnapped daughter back.

The film, which won Best Picture at the 2012 Movieville International Film Festival this past September was originally titled “White Swan,” a name which, having seen the movie, is perfectly appropriate considering the role ballet plays in the plot but one can understand why it would be a terrible idea to name a movie “White Swan” so soon after “Black Swan,” a film that was very well received critically and commercially but also had an aesthetic that Skya and Crombie probably wouldn’t want their movie compared with.  The decision to go with the “White Swan” title in the first place is very questionable but at least they figured it out in time for the DVD release.

So what do you title a movie about an ass-kicking ballerina hell-bent on revenge for the murder of her husband and kidnapping of her daughter?  Someone, whether it was the filmmakers or the studio, decided to go with “Assassins Run” as the title for the DVD release.  Does it matter if the lead character of the film is really an assassin?  Apparently not.

So now that we’ve got a new title, Lionsgate needs to come up with some cover art for the DVD to catch people’s attention and give them an idea of what the movie is about.  The solution to that seems pretty obvious, feature the young, hot, up and coming star of the movie prominently on the cover.  Surely a ballerina kicking a dude in the face will catch your eye on a rack at the store.

What we get instead is the most mind boggling piece of movie marketing I think I’ve ever seen.  Instead of using Skya on the cover, Lionsgate decides to put Christian Slater front and centre on the DVD cover wearing army cammo and carrying a gun.  I realize that Slater has the most name value in the film, but keep in mind that his character is killed in the first act and at no point in the movie is he anywhere close to being dressed as if he’s at war like he is on the cover of this DVD.  In fact, Slater’s character is never not wearing a suit in this short role.  And don’t tell me no one wants to see a woman fighting.  Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman would beg to differ and Ronda Rousey just sold nearly half a million pay per view buys in February.

The only explanation I have for this is that this is a pathetic attempt at marketing a movie as something it is not when what it actually is is more appealing than what it is pretending to be.  “Assassins Run” as a title is nothing more than a pick an empty meaning name from the hat effort to market this movie as a video game style shoot ‘em up starring a guy who hasn’t been relevant since the 90’s.

As for the movie itself?  It’s actually not bad.  It lacks the suspense of “Taken” and brilliant fight choreography of “Kill Bill” but the idea of a ballerina utilizing her skills for fighting works for this story and makes the second half of the movie quite entertaining.  The use of Skya’s real life ballet skills as part of the fight choreography is done in an effective and believable way and actually is able to create for a unique movie watching experience when compared to other straight to DVD action movies you can find out there.

While there is some very stiff acting at times from some bit players and even from Slater, Skya is able to hold the film together through her solemn resolve to avenge the death of her husband and retrieve her stolen daughter.  The story is told through flash-forwards to a police interrogation of Skya explaining how she got into the situation she was in.  The film would have done just as well without these scenes but they do serve to draw you in near the beginning of the movie where there isn’t much action, letting a viewer know that pretty soon it’s all going to go down.

Video:
The film features a good mix of bright exterior scenes with intense, dark interiors in prisons and abandoned warehouses and the sort.  The dark scenes show well on DVD and don’t have a distracting amount of grain, nor do they come off as just un-viewable darkness.  “Assassins Run” is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has a perfectly good level of picture quality for a DVD release.

Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio track on the DVD is also perfectly good for a DVD release.  There are some scenes where there is an awkward mix of non-diegetic music playing over top of diegetic music (such as a ballet performance) that is kind of distracting.  Instances like that are better served with the score completely stopping when they cut to the ballet or at least bringing it way down in the mix.  Having that contrast in music would have only added to the suspense of the scenes in question.

Special Features:
None to speak of other than a trailer collection.  The trailer for “Assassins Run” provides a much more accurate portrayal of the film than the DVD cover art does.

Bottom Line:
“Assassins Run” is an OK 90 minute distraction with a cool concept that is completely buried in a pile of overthought marketing rubbish.  Take this story concept and put some marquee quality stars in it with a wide theatrical release and it would probably do some business.   Unfourtunately, with its generic title and cover art, this straight to DVD release is sure to be overlooked by many due to the real film inside being completely misrepresented and is destined for bargain bins and ultimately completely forgotten.  It’s a shame, because this movie’s not bad.

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