Undisputed II: Last Man Standing sounds like a dubious recommendation. A direct-to-video sequel to a movie few people saw, without the participation of stars Ving Rhames or Wesley Snipes? Yet it's a surprising success thanks to director Isaac Florentine, who uses stylish action cinematography to show off the skills of veteran Michael Jai White and rising star Scott Adkins. Since then, all three have seen their home video fortunes rise: White and Adkins are above-the-title DTV stars, and Florentine has directed multiple films with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Assassin's Bullet seems to be another step up, gathering Christian Slater, Timothy Spall, and Donald Sutherland for an action-thriller, but Florentine's style is almost non-existent in this disappointing picture.
Slater plays Robert Diggs, a former FBI agent who relocated himself to Bulgaria and switched to education after an unfortunate collision of work and personal life left his wife dead. He's happy where he is, but when a mysterious assassin shows up and starts taking out high-profile targets the FBI can't get to themselves, Robert's boss Ashdown (Sutherland) asks him to get involved with catching the killer. Meanwhile, Robert's friend Dr. Kahn (Spall) encourages Robert to get on with his personal life, but Robert's involvement with a beautiful dancer (Elika Portnoy) sets up another chance for his love life and his profession to get in the way of each other.
It's hard to discuss much of Assassin's Bullet because...well, assuming the viewer of the film has eyes, I expect they'll figure out one of the movie's major reveals the moment they have the opportunity to do so. However, the characters are apparently not blessed with the same power of perception or intelligence that the audience is, and Florentine is stuck between a rock and a hard place: let the audience know that he realizes the movie's smoke and mirrors aren't fooling anyone and make all of his characters look like morons, or ignore it, and play it up as the most obvious twist in the history of filmmaking (which, frankly, still makes his characters look like morons). Not only does Florentine choose the latter, but he refuses to throw out the meticulously-constructed red herring scenes that accompany this kind of reveal.
Then again, it'd be easy to look past some corny screenwriting if the film was fun and exciting, but the movie fails at that too. An early scene of the assassin taking out a small storefront full of criminals has an energy and clarity that so many modern action movies lack, but that scene is followed by almost 40 minutes of half-assed character development and an intensely boring romance. All three leads appear attentive and ready to jump into a role should the film offer them anything to do, but there's a long stretch where everyone is stuck with material they just can't breathe any life into. After what seems like an eternity, Slater gets to have a short fistfight with the assassin, but it's way, way too late and the shootout that follows isn't as impressive as the one earlier in the film.
By the time Assassin's Bullet is ready to wrap things up, everyone has completely checked out, including the screenwriters, who leave several stories completely unresolved. A cynic would suggest they're just leaving things open for a sequel, but in execution it feels like the ultimate expression of laziness: letting the audience put it all together is a moody, "serious" ending. Florentine's invigoration of his Undisputed sequels came from his ability to shed the unnecessary overtures and give the audience a great vehicle for the good stuff, but Assassin's Bullet rests at the other end of the spectrum: all fat cut from better movies and lazily strung together for a few bucks.
I think there must be a template for this artwork, because a blue filter, this specific font in big steel 3D lettering, on a diagonal tilt seems to be a new look for direct-to-DVD action movie artwork. The disc comes in an eco-friendly Amaray (the kind with holes punched in it), the disc comes with a glossy slipcover that replicates the artwork, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is a surprisingly nice-looking standard-definition transfer. The image has a hint of softness that gives it a nice film-like appearance, but still offers the basic clarity and detail of a film shot in HD. Colors are vivid and well-rendered, and if there was any posterization or artifacting, I didn't notice.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has a little of the cheapness usually associated with low-budget, direct-to-video movies, but it sounds pretty good for what it is. Gunfire and explosions pack a decent punch, and the music sounds good. The only thing lacking is environmental effects, which are a little sparse and clean. Closed captioning is provided on TVs capable of displaying them, but no subtitles are available on the disc itself.
A short featurette on the making of the film is included. Nothing remarkable, although it does feature Portnoy discussing the writing of the film and the big twist.
Trailers for 96 Minutes, Age of the Dragons, and Blood Money play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Assassin's Bullet is also provided.
Yawn. Two minutes of decent action does not a movie make. Skip it.
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