REVIEW: Assassin X (2016)

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2016, Throwing Star Films/Al Bravo Films/Blue Hemisphere Pictures/Iconic Pictures

Director:
Art Camacho
Producers:
Art Camacho
Al Bravo
Tom Renner
Writer:
James Dean Simington
Cinematography:
Carmen Cabana
Editing:
Hector Rodriguez

Cast:
Olivier Gruner (Ronus Steele)
Patrick Kilpatrick (Claxton)
Martin Kove (Frank Castle)
Stephanie Gérard (Gabriela Dresden)
Steven Dell (Blaine)
Nina Bergman (Trinidad)
Sasha Mitchell (Blade)
Robert Miano (Joey)
Richard Grieco (Stone)
Tom Renner (Riskin)
Marshal Hilton (Vitaly)

Olivier Gruner stars in this action thriller in which the action could have had some improvements, but the story has some intricate twists that make this watchable.

Ronus Steele is one of the best assassins in the business. Unlike many other assassins, Ronus does not rely on firepower, but rather his skills in chemistry. This allows him to master the use of poison to eliminate his targets. Claxton, Ronus’s handler, asks Frank to help Ronus take in an up-and-comer named Blaine to teach his the ways of being an assassin. Blaine is known to be a hot-head but Ronus must learn to help Blaine control himself.

When Ronus learns he must eliminate Frank, he does so but with major regret. That becomes the least of his problems when Blaine loses control and kills a target intended for Ronus to eliminate. When Ronus learns that a young woman he has fallen for, Gabriela, is the next one to be eliminated, Ronus refuses. However, Blaine soon finds himself the one hired to take out both Ronus and Gabriela, taking his girl Trinidad to join him on the hit. Will the aging Ronus be ready to handle his one-time protégé and be able to protect Gabriela?

During the 1990’s heyday of B-movie martial arts action films in America, the name Art Camacho is quite a familiarity with his trademark fight scenes for the now-defunct PM Entertainment. He has worked with the likes of Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Gary Daniels, T.J. Roberts, and others. He even choreographed the fight scenes for the 2003 Steven Seagal action thriller Half Past Dead. His prolific work as a fight choreographer earned him the nickname “The Fight Master”.

For his latest film, originally called The Chemist in 2014, Camacho brings in another veteran of the 90’s heyday, Olivier Gruner, to play an aging hitman who uses a very intricate method of using poison on his victims. The film does have a protégé-mentor relationship with a hot-headed protégé in the form of Steven Dell, who starred in Camacho’s MMA short film Flawed. Dell does quite well as Blaine, who goes from protégé to villain as he finds himself taking on his mentor with the help of Nina Bergman, whose character Trinidad loves the thrill of danger and the fact her new love is a hitman.

Stephanie Gérard is great to watch as Gabriela, Ronus’s latest target who becomes his love interest. The reason involved that Gabriela also dabbles in kickboxing to protect herself and along with Gruner, gets herself involved in some of the film’s fight scenes, choreographed by Camacho and former UFC fighter Fabiano Iha. Patrick Kilpatrick continues his great reputation playing villains despite being a nice guy off-screen in the role of handler Claxton while Martin Kove makes the most of his screen time as Frank, Ronus’ old friend. Look for former 21 Jump Street actor Richard Grieco and David Sloan himself, Sasha Mitchell, in cameos playing poker, which at first may not make sense, but all comes to play in the finale. Also look out for martial arts legends Eric Lee and Samuel Kwok in some nice fighting cameo roles.

As mentioned, the team of Art Camacho and Fabiano Iha were responsible for the film’s action scenes. This would explain why the fights are a mixed bag, taking Gruner’s kickboxing skills to show that he still has it while using a more grounded mixed martial arts style approach as well. The only issue with that is we are treated to an all-too familiar problem: shaky cam and rapid fire editing that doesn’t really enhance the film but hinders it in terms of its action. It may be a far cry from the 90’s heyday of American martial arts films but at least they gave it a good go. Here’s hoping that Camacho can once again return to an action style of fighting like those glory days of the 90’s.

Assassin X is not a completely bad film as it does show that Olivier Gruner still has it in him with Steven Dell breaking out as his hot-headed protégé turned nemesis. However, the action could have been better edited. It’s a hit or miss ultimately.

WFG RATING: C+

DVD

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