Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Watch: Anna Paquin Is Rescued In Clip From 'X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut' Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Kevin Feige Says 'Spider-Man 2' Is "One Of The Best Superhero Movies Ever," Talks John Hughes Influence On New Spidey Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Watch: Live Your Ultimate Fantasy With The First NSFW Trailer For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Review & Recap: ‘True Detective’ Season 2, Episode 2, ‘Night Finds You’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight Of Cups’ Won’t Arrive Until 2016, Austin Music Scene Drama Not Titled ‘Weightless’ The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 The Punisher Will Reportedly Appear As The Villain In ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development 'Lucy 2' And 'Colombiana 2' Are In Development Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics Mixed Reactions For Marvel's 'Ant-Man' After First Press Screening Plus New Promos And Pics The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The Essentials: The 5 Best Rachel McAdams Performances The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best TV Shows Of The 2014/2015 Season The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season

The Playlist's Guide To Assassins In The Movies

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist April 8, 2011 at 4:45AM

We often don’t know where they come from, their real names or even why they do what they do. Yet, as an audience, we are frequently enamored with the glossy thrill of power offered to a hitman, a silent assassin disappearing into the night. Why hitmen have been such a genre staple isn’t hard to see - you put a gun into the hand of a major character, and boom! drama. The idea of a hired gun, someone whose line of work involves ending human lives without passion or emotion, is naturally fraught with tension and emotional weight.
10

"Collateral" (2004)
In a colorful marquee career, one can make the case that Tom Cruise has never been scarier or more complex as Vincent, the grey-haired hitman at the center of one of Michael Mann’s typically lonely L.A. nights. Calm to the core, the silver-maned killer has commandeered taxi driver Jamie Foxx for the evening, forming a queasy, tense relationship between them where their fates are intertwined - Foxx fears for his life, while Cruise plays his killer as a man with an unspoken, borderline desperate motivation to meet a death quota. Not quite top-class Mann, "Collateral" unfortunately ends in a foot chase that seems overly conventional for the talky, moody thriller that preceded these events, but it’s the sort of genre gamble that Mann can perform in his sleep, providing a crowd-pleasing caper to an intense chess match of character study. [A-]

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002)
When Chuck Barris became the bad taste baron of tacky sixties and seventies game shows, his public reputation was as an opportunistic dim bulb who found his niche and exploited it to the fullest. What George Clooney's directorial debut supposes is that Barris was actually overachieving, his schlocky public persona a cover for his exploits as a CIA hitman. Clooney and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman take their cues from Barris’ straight-faced memoirs, depicting a shadowy, back-stabbing world of back-alley dealings and often fatal interactions with ill-advised lovers, while also finding room for all the CIA spy stuff (rimshot!). Within the film, which is nonetheless a love letter to the era in television, filled with practical effects, flimsy scene transitions and a muted color scheme, there is not only a typically brilliant, nuanced turn from Sam Rockwell as Barris, but also a tragic candle-wick characterization from Rutger Hauer playing a killer in his last days on the job. [A]

Fallen Angels" (1995)
Seen as a companion piece to the probably-perfect "Chungking Express," Wong Kar-Wai's fifth film is less immediate and therefore less beloved, even if some of its moments (such as the mute/father/video-tape sequence) are just as heart-wrenching. "Fallen Angels" shares a two-story plot with its sister, however here the director intercuts them as opposed to closing one before beginning another. What doesn't help is that both stories are radically different- one a drama about a for-hire assassin, the other a more comedic-tale of a petty criminal - and first time viewing can be rather chaotic and jarring given the varying tones going in and out. Reflection and subsequent watches eliminate any confusion or irritation and reveal hefty substance, with the "hitman" story starring Leon Lai ("3 Extremes II") standing out most. This story follows a killer and his book-keeping partner, a female that sets up his murders and cleans the scene after the deed is done. Despite never meeting each other, they lead an unconventional romantic relationship, one that fizzes into ugliness when the killer breaks off their ties via jukebox song. Sounds like your typical quirkiness from Wong Kar-Wai, but most of the cuteness is saved for the other narrative. Instead, he uses the story as an opportunity to play Mellville (long, quiet stretches of him either post-kill or approaching the kill) and craft quick, gritty shoot-outs no one knew he was capable of doing. Long time collaborator Doyle shines brightest in this segment too, switching film stocks and speeds in an unpredictable fashion that somehow doesn't feel random, but wild. Wong has only been this on-the-surface cool in "As Tears Go By," which wasn't bad by any means but definitely hampered by an excess of sentimentality. Maybe this one's a bit colder, but the topic of yearning and criticisms of indecisiveness tug on the heart's strings just as hard, only without the mawkish grabs. [B+]

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" (1999)
Arguably Jim Jarmusch's most commercial film, but certainly not his only dip into the crime genre to date, "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" is an odd blend. Following Forest Whitaker as a hitman in the employ of the Jersey mob, who follows the Hagakure (the samurai code), it's a conscious nod to Melville's classic "Le Samourai," but brings all kinds of added elements into the mix -- Kurosawa, philosophy, hip-hop (thanks to the outstanding soundtrack by Wu-Tang Clan member RZA) and even cartoons -- Felix The Cat, Betty Boo and Woody Woodpecker all crop up, while the mother of Pearline, the young girl that Ghost Dog befriends, is shot only from the waist down, in a manner reminiscent of Mammy Two Shoes from the "Tom & Jerry" cartoons. As you might expect from Jarmusch, it's a thoughtful, at times almost spiritual, picture (mostly thanks to Whitaker's typically soulful lead performance, and excellent support from John Tormey as his 'master,' Louie. What's more surprising is how well the director handles the action -- the final set-piece in particular is close to thrilling. A deserving cult classic, even if it doesn't hold up to the very best of Jarmusch's output. [B+]

This article is related to: Films, Feature, Hanna, Features, Saoirse Ronan


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates