Assassination (1987) / Action-Thriller
MPAA rated PG-13 for violence and language
Running time: 93 min.
Cast: Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Jan Gan Boyd, Randy Brooks, Erik Stern, Michael Ansara, James Staley, James Acheson, Stephen Elliott
Director: Peter Hunt
Screenplay: Richard Sale
Review published January 16, 2012
Charles Bronson (Love and Bullets, Once Upon a Time in the West) stars as Jay 'Killy' Killion, the chief Secret Service agent charged with the protection of the new First Lady of the United States, Lara Royce Craig (Ireland, Death Wish II). It's not easy being in charge, as Lara is as egotistical and high maintenance a charge as they come, not to mention that she is indeed to become the target of an internationally renown terrorist hell-bent on taking her out. Thinking that it may be an inside job, Killy takes her under his personal care and splits the scene until he can crack the case, heading out into the country to the Midwest and farther in order to keep her out of harm's way. But the fact that they are still discovered might even mean that her husband, the President himself, may be involved.
By comparison to other post-Death Wish vehicles starring Bronson, Assassination is a relatively light affair, displaying more comical interplay among the characters and less concentration on grandiose depiction of the bad guys and their ruthlessness. The formula is well-known, feeling like one of the semi-comic Clint Eastwood actioners like The Gauntlet that showcase the softer, more protective side of the macho actor at the forefront. As such, Bronson fans may enjoy seeing him take on a role that uses his often neglected charisma, as he is more than a man with a gun and a squint blowing away two-bit thugs. Ireland is more caricature than character, but the movie's entertainment resides so much on the surface that any attempt to place seriousness in the mix would likely have made the entire production unpalatable.
As innocuous as it is for a PG-13 actioner, the story itself is a bit of a throwaway, never really garnering any momentum in terms of setting up for the big conflict at the end, focusing more on the light characterizations and the mildly flirtatious interplay between Killy and Lara when they are alone and in close quarters. One of the more interesting aspect of the movie is that of Killy's pre-existing 'friends with benefits' relationships he has with one of his agents, Charlie (Boyd, A Chorus Line), who is more aggressive in her pursuit of Killy's affection, but also down to earth in comparison to the snooty demeanor of Lara. The interplay between the two is amusing, but Boyd's chemistry with Bronson is definitely muted by the understated attraction between Bronson and Ireland, who were married in real life since 1968. Unfortunately, Assassination would be their final time working together before Ireland would die of breast cancer three years later.
By the end, you'll realize that the story provides many more question than answers, as the script by Richard Sale (Suddenly, The White Buffalo) isn't particularly big on explanations on such things as why the bad guys can find Killy and Lara no matter how covert they are, and what's more, the entire reason behind the assassination is murkily explained at best. Killy thinks that Lara, who married President Craig in order to make him more viable as a candidate for the White House, could be offed in order to secure public sympathy for a second term, though it would have made more sense to do this a couple of years later when actually on the campaign trail. Nevertheless, Bronson fans will likely come away thinking it is dumb fun, easy to watch but not gritty enough to remain long in the memory after the credits begin to roll.
©2012 Vince Leo