Looking Back at Assassins (1995)

Plot: Assassin Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone) arrives at a funeral to kill a prominent mobster, only to witness rival hired gun Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) complete the job for him — with grisly results. Horrified by the murder of innocent bystanders, Rath decides to take one last job and then return to civilian life. But finding his way out of the world of contract killing grows ever more dangerous as Rath falls for his target, Electra (Julianne Moore), and becomes a marked man himself.

Assassins may not be ranked up there with Sylvester Stallone’s best action pictures but I’ve always had a soft spot for it mostly due to Antonio Banderas as the wonderfully unhinged Miguel Bain.

The film sits at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes which seems unfair as it’s still a fun time with Stallone giving a restrained performance and allowing Banderas to steal every scene.

Julianne Moore is well cast as the mysterious Electra who is a hacker way out of her depth so she teams up with Robert Rath (Stallone) to avoid being taken out by Bain.

Considering Assassins is just over two hours long it’s still well paced and not short on action; we get several explosions, chases and shoot-outs making for a somewhat unremarkable but diverting action picture.

It really is Banders that makes this movie as entertaining as it is with his over-the-top antics and twitchy performance.

It was only on this viewing that I noticed Muse Watson as Ketchum, Robert’s mark in the opening in the swamp. He of course is the killer from the original I Know What You Did Last Summer; his line “what shoes will you be wearing when your day comes?” comes back to me often. We also have Richard Donner regular Steve Kahan in a small role as Alan Branch, who Miguel takes out at a funeral.

I love looking into trivia of movies and potential casting that never happened; for instance Sean Connery, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wesley Snipes and Michael Douglas were all considering for roles in the film at various stages. Mel Gibson was even interested in directing but got involved with Braveheart instead so Richard Donner helmed the project.

Donner stated at one point that the film would have worked better with Stallone and Banderas’ roles reversed but I disagree; I love Banderas in this movie and to this day Bain is one of my favourite characters of his.

A few scenes from the trailer didn’t make the final film and IMDb has listed them below:

  • Rath is walking in the streets and looks in a store window. He stops a customer from stealing a dress, talks with female store clerk and pretends he wants to buy a dress for his wife/girlfriend because they had a fight. When the clerk goes to wrap the dress Rath leaves a wad of $100 bills in the clerk’s textbook and exits the store.
  • An extended funeral scene. Bain is introduced walking through the cemetery. A caretaker asks if he needs help and Bain says “I’m just looking for someone.” The caretaker, assuming Bain is looking for someone’s grave, offers to check the plot map but Bain says, “He’s not dead yet.” It can be presumed Bain killed him off-screen and took his uniform, which explains why he is wearing it in the scene.
  • When Bain recognizes Rath in the cab, instead of saying something in Spanish he says “Surprise!”. In the trailer, when Bain is aiming at the kids playing soccer, he says “Moving target.”
  • After evading Bain at the “Day Of The Dead” parade, Rath and Electra return to the hotel where they make love. The trailer contains snippets of this scene, such as Electra saying “You’re a strange man, Robert Rath,” before they hug and kiss. In this scene they also tell each other their real names (Joseph and Anna); in the final film that occurs at the very end, but their lines are heard off screen, indicating that they were dubbed into the scene in post production.

You can immediately recognize Mark Mancina as the composer as the music sounds similar to Speed but as he took over from Michael Kamen then he apparently didn’t have time to create a main theme which is why it’s rather forgettable. I don’t think it needed a main theme as the score worked fine for the story.

Overall, Assassins may not be perfect but I still have a good time with it and our 3 leads do the best they can; this is Banderas’ show and he has the best dialogue stealing every scene. It’s not classic action cinema but it’s worth a watch.