Assassin(s) (1997) Poster


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Better than many think
D Throat23 January 1999
This movie was booed in Cannes. Why? Audiences were probably expecting a second La Haine. But thank god Kassovitz did not do a repeat performance. This movie is not so much social commentary as some have approached it, but more a character study of sorts. The three protagonists interaction is quite gripping, the sitcom on TV is the best ever, and the twist in the middle(!) is filmmaking at its finest. Drawbacks aplenty, the ending is obvious, for example, and a bit of cheap shot, but overall this movie is definitely not as bad as many critics thought.
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A visually impressive film that ends up as an orgy of violence
jameswtravers16 June 2000
This is a film that plays on Mathieu Kassovitz's strengths as both an actor and a director. As an actor, he is well-suited to play the half-hearted, rather feckless criminal, a tragic-comic role that Kassovitz seems to excel in. In the director's seat, Kassovitz creates a film that is energetic, vibrant, dramatic, and visually very impressive. The three lead characters are well-used, with some fine performances, particularly from veteran actor Michael Serrault who acts out the paradoxes of his day job as a professional killer with great conviction and sincerity.

Where the film falls down is in the plot structure and the unnecessary overuse of violence. The film begins well enough, with Wagner recruiting Max and training him to take over his job. Then, about two-thirds of the way through, the film abruptly changes direction and seems to go off on some kind of crusade to educate the world about the dangers of video games on impressionable young boys. At that point, the film loses its momentum and the violence which ensues appears senseless and gratuitous.

There are some similarities of style with Kassovitz's earlier film, La Haine. However, whereas that film seemed to have a fairly clear statement to make, Assassin(s) does not and appears ambiguous and confused. As a result, what could easily have been a very powerful and successful film will probably be remembered as a rather confused film revelling in violence - not unlike the computer games that it seems to revile.
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Too visionary for some
patonamu9 June 2002
Having read the previous comments, I must say that for me it wasn't too gloomy, too violent, too confused. I think you couldn't have been more lucid, even visionary, in 1997, considering the real-world high school rampages thereafter (1999: Columbine/USA, 2002: Ehrfurt/Germany, etc.).Another sharp insight in this film is the depiction of the different generational "characters". We have the old, heroin-addicted killer, the naive hard-working mother, the joint-smoking, lethargic twen and the cold-blooded, bored teen. Me, being a twen, found a totally new generation presented: They are not only constant TV consumers like all the other generations, nor is only one parent missing, but here we have no parents at all, and their active, martial video-gaming-experience combined with passive access to all the trivial perverseness of TV's innumerable channels, can most likely lead to a detached killer seeking real life testing of his training in the virtual world. The key scene for me is, when Max sees himself as a killer in the reflecting car-window. He then can still reflect upon the insanity of it all.
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TV as we've never seen it
mzojala26 February 1999
Some say Assassin(s) speaks of TV-violence and its effects on society. I see the film presenting television as a substitute reality. In the film, TV is constantly there with you, you can't escape it and, slowly but surely, it changes your sense of reality. The result is a numb society, lacking the capacity to feel and emphatize. That is far more frightening than just TV-violence, which, after all, just presents the means of expressing aggression. Kassovitz realises this and directs a shocking but fantastically sharp film that follows its own path of logic owing nothing to any other film. I can't remember the time I've been shaken like this by a motion picture. It's a shame there hasn't been more discussion (in Finland, anyway) about the media-cultural issues Assassin(s) brings forward.
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A serious Natural Born Killer
abisio2 October 2002
First of all, this is not a good or a bad movie. It is a little boring, and a couple of things did not quite match.

However, it has a very serious violence (no action, pure raw and disgusting violence) with enough good taste to avoid blood all over the lenses (but not less shocking), and compared to the Oliver Stone movie, it is a lot better and really delivers the message.

All three main characters are marginal people. One of them a dying drug addict killer, the other two are nobodies trying to find a way in life. I do not think that every lost person in the world could become a killer or a psychopath; but there are not bad candidates either. The concept of TV generating violence, is not new and hardly arguably, but the way it is presented, without any poetry or sympathy makes the point better than any other movie on the subject.

Conclusion; this is not a commercial movie. It is the type of film you see when you are looking for something deep that makes your brain work. Overall, you will probably dislike it, which is a good reason to give it a try.
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Morally repugnant, cinematically exciting.
gridoon19 November 2002
Michell Seraut is an aging assassin who trains the young, disoriented Mathieu Kassovitz (who also directed) to be his successor. And this is yet another movie that blames TV and video games for the violence in our society, and repeats the idea of killers with moral codes, who are not really butchers and...well, it's a rotten world anyway, the politicians are on the take, you know. I found it morally repugnant. But because Kassovitz is a talented director, it's often cinematically exciting. There's a startling plot development midway through, although the story generally shows little concern for logic. However, the film has to get extra points for its grim ending, which, considering more recent tragic events, proved to be almost prophetic. (**)
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filipemanuelneto6 November 2018
This movie is, at least, morally baffling. Wagner is a veteran killer, who takes his work very seriously. However, he's dying and has no one to pass on his legacy of death. He decides, therefore, that it is best to take the young Max for his apprentice.

Mathieu Kassovitz is in great shape in this film. In addition to ensuring a solid direction, he also makes one of the main characters, namely Max. Nothing to point out from negative. The actor was able to give the character a look of ingenuity and inexperience that fit well with the situation and with Wagner, a more cunning and sinister character, who was well interpreted by veteran Michell Seraut.

Forget any notion of ethics and morals. The film is very amoral and does not mind trampling our most elementary concepts of society. It tries to point out blame for the clumsiness of our society, the inherent rot of humanity, bad television entertainment and the influence of mass communication. This is something that leaves us totally out of our comfort zone, coupled with the virtual absence of female characters and ultimately a bit disconcerting.

I personally enjoyed this movie, although it is not an easy movie for everyone. There are many artistic elements here, and I particularly liked some camera angles and shooting effects. But it lacks a solid moral background that allows people to like the film more.
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didn't work for me.
surfisfun4 October 2018
Didn't think much of the cinematography and editing. The acting and dialogues didn't carry deep philosophically .

i thought the older teen character too old and boring for the role, .The old man was good.

the dance club scene was the best

i red onother reviewer that said movie was booed at Cane festival. When i disagree to such behavior, this movie definitely is not a contender as it absurd feel and lack of impressive acting /story/scenes / film didn't add up positively in my overall impression. but you may like it.
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Reprinted from my blog (
charlesem10 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Perhaps no movie since Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976) has sledgehammered television quite so thoroughly as Assassin(s). But where Network took the business of television for its target, Assassin(s) aims at the medium's ubiquity and its desensitizing effect on viewers. It's not a novel point, of course, and even the spin writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz decides to give it -- the effect TV has in creating a culture of violence -- is neither fresh nor unquestioned. The story at the film's center is about an aging professional hit man, Mr. Wagner (Michel Serrault), who takes on a young petty thief, Max (Kassovitz), as his apprentice. It's set in the Parisian banlieus that were the socio-political milieu for Kassovitz's earlier (and much better) film about violence, La Haine (1995). It opens with Mr. Wagner guiding Max into the brutal and entirely gratuitous murder of an elderly man (Robert Gendreu), and then flashes back to bring the story up to a recapitulation of the event -- rubbing our noses in it, so to speak. Max is a layabout and a screwup, but there is a core of reluctance within him that Mr. Wagner is determined to obliterate. Eventually, Max takes on his own protégé, a teenager named Mehdi (Mehdi Benoufa), who is decidedly not reluctant to engage in a little killing, seeing it as just an extension of the videogames he plays. Throughout the film, television sets are blaring game shows, commercials, sitcoms, and even nature documentaries in the background, an ironic, if sometimes heavyhanded, counterpoint to the murders committed by Mr. Wagner, Max, and Mehdi. Kassovitz stages much of the film well, extracting full shock value, and he sometimes embroiders the realism of the story with surreal touches: At one point, when Mr. Wagner is walking away from Max, we see a demonic tail emerge from beneath Wagner's overcoat -- or is it Max, perpetually stoned, who sees this? More effectively, reinforcing Kassovitz's treatment of the effects of television, Mehdi -- who is coming unglued after his first commissioned hit -- watches a TV sitcom about a group of young people that suddenly turns into violent, necrophiliac pornography, accompanied by a laugh track. Kassovitz showed undeniable talent with La Haine, and some of it is on display here. Assassin(s) was booed at the Cannes festival, and has never received a wide commercial release in the United States, but it's something of a fascinating (if often repellent) failure.
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Technique/deepness: excellent; Marketing: poor
vostf4 August 2001
Kassovitz is not the first director that made the mistake to let a message overflow his picture. In Assassin(s) he does it thoroughly and quite conscientiously. At least no one can question the artistical outcome. The point of view is accurate, everything is well-thought: the story-line very well paced and packed with dark suspense.

That is the main point. The movie is by far too gloomy. Cinema cannot be an Art for the Art's sake, it definitely has to do with entertainment. People go to the movies hoping to get out relieved from such concerns as screen violence & social issues. These people are not only fat-brained teens starving for action blockbusters, it would be wrong to think entertainment is for low-educated masses. People want laughs (mostly), thrills (escape from the dull), scares (not too scary though)... but they do not want a distressing movie.

Hence Assassin(s) does not cater for a large audience. I found it great despite its darkness because I am sensitive to its top class directorial and writing skills. Yet the poor marketing skills make it a somewhat suicidal experience for a young director and fortunately Kassovitz has been granted the expensive privilege of learning directly from his mistakes. Just hoping Les Rivières Pourpres brought him back his self-confidence to avoid out-of-the-box happy endings in the future.
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Not serious,dangerous...
dbdumonteil3 January 2004
Almost as dangerous as Stone's "Natural born killer" or Collard's mindless and irresponsible " les nuits fauves" ,"Assassin(s)" left me unconvinced and ill -at-ease .Michel Serrault 's character might be fascinating to some people :he does his job "seriously",as if it were a nine-to-five one ("Do not be late for your first contract,Sonny"),he describes his "method" in lavish detail ,and the director/writer does not even try humour noir as an alibi.Besides the very young "assistant "is an Arab, which is not a very smart move .Girls are completely absent ,which is the main originality of the screenplay.The only woman who appears is the hero's mother (Danielle Lebrun) and this part is underwritten (two scenes in a 2hours+ movie)

Actually the hero is like a zombie,he resembles some robot from a vague video game ,the stringman being the old man .Television is omnipresent,with its stupid games,its series -although "Colombo" is not that much violent-,its Japanese cartoons and its commercials.The old killer's "moral" would go like this :"everybody,politicians,journalists,military men,cops et al are criminals ,so why not me?" .We are not far from Docteur Petiot's ideas -another Michel Serraut's part a few years before.
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Snoozer, don't listen to the pretentious IMDb reviews
Der_Schnibbler30 March 2013

Drawn out affair that has its good moments. However, it falls prey to its own desperate need to be socially relevant. TV desensitizes, we get it. Media is bad. We don't need to stare at a character staring at a television for five minutes straight.

Some twit actually said this film ends in an "orgy of violence." I'd like to know what film the pretentious dork was watching.

Also, what is the deal with this film basically being two films? It's like they decided to switch the main actor halfway and start over.

A somewhat decent drama that overstays its welcome, it would've been better were it edited down by a third.
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Good, but it's not "La Haine"
Carrot-423 December 1998
Mathieu Kassovitz has directed one of the best movies ever (La Haine) ; a movie about gangs. This time, he comes back with a film about contract killers: Assassin(s). Kassovitz has done a very good directing job, and he is a very good actor too, but the violence is so intense in this film that it becomes unendurable to watch it.

The film is about an old contract killer who teaches his job to a young boy and who wants him, eventually, to take over the business. This isn't a very entertaining movie, it‘s pretty hard to watch, it's violent, horrifying and it has a total lack of humor. It is inspired a lot by : "C'est arrivé près de chez vous " (Man Bites Dog), which was a much better film with a lot more humor. The movie wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either...let's just say it was good.
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