As an institution, Hollywood seems a bit overly concerned with the emotional health and well-being of its many skilled assassins and hitmen. Time and again, in films like You Kill Me, The Professional and, more recently, The American, we are asked to consider the lonely and emotionally ungratifying lifestyles with which these specialized men have burdened themselves. A common solution is to find a woman — a hooker will do in a pinch, especially if she seems particularly sweet on you — but, failing that, a young protégé can also accomplish the job of re-attaching the hitman back into humanity, provided he/she truly want to return.
And this, then, is where we find Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), a decorated and well-paid assassin for a corporate organization of rub-out artists, who commits complex gigs, then returns home to his New Orleans manse, a Bayou Fortress of Solitude, to spin cheesy piano concertos on his fabulously expensive turntable and read about his handiwork on his MacBook Pro. Shortly after being forced to kill his mentor, Harry (Donald Sutherland), he feels guilty enough to take on as his protégé his late mentor’s unwitting son, Steve (Ben Foster). Over the course of a (seemingly very short) amount of screen time, Arthur teaches Steve the fine points of high-caliber rifles and sends him out for his first solo mission. Meanwhile, he discovers a nefarious double-crosser in his organization and has to take out every other man before he and Steve are assassinated themselves.
You have obviously seen much of this material, in one form or another, several times before, from the insanely complicated killings (one of which benefits greatly from an obviously horrific chemical treatment of a Cartel boss’ personal swimming pool), to the twists and revelations that lead our protagonists to wipe out many, many other top-of-the-line professional killers as if they were so many clumsy rubes. There are hints of depth, or at least slight head nods, and the film plays for a brief time with the idea that Steve actually has a death wish, which would make for a very poor choice of partner but a far more interesting film, but the nuances, such as they are, are mostly lost to the loud, piercing brak-a-brak of automatic weapons fire. More troublesome, the ending, featuring the inevitable confrontation between student and master, seems to waver between what it wants to do, resulting in a confusing mishmash of conflicting morality. Apparently, there is no honor amongst thieves and assassins; just a lot of transcendental loneliness.
Piers Marchant is a Philly-based writer and editor, and the EIC (and film critic) for two.one.five magazine (215mag.com). His reviews can be found on 215mag.com and his tumblr blog, Sweet Smell of Success. You can also follow him on twitter @kafkaesque83.
Bypass theater ticket lines. Buy movie tickets in advance at Fandango.com.