Assassination Tango

Assassination Tango
Made in: USA, Argentina
Language: English, Spanish
Director: Robert Duvall
Starring: Robert Duvall, Rubén Blades, Luciana Pedraza, Kathy Baker, Katherine Micheaux Miller
Year: 2002

Synopsis: Aging hitman John Anderson (Robert Duvall) wants to retire and spend the rest of his life in Brooklyn with his wife Maggie (Kathy Baker) and young step-daughter Jenny (Katherine Micheaux Miller).

However, he reluctantly accepts one last job that takes him to Buenos Aires, Argentina. While there, he meets his contact Miguel (Rubén Blades), and two bald guys who give him the murky details about the hit job.

But then John stumbles upon an Argentine tango performance by Manuela (Luciana Pedraza - Duvall's real-life spouse) at a club. Enchanted by the beautiful Manuela, John befriends her and learns the way of the tango as a way to pass the time before killing someone.

The Good: The dance sequences.

The Bad: The scenes in between the dance sequences.

And this is really too bad, because the Academy Award-winning Robert Duvall is usually a lot of fun to watch (A Civil Action, Thank you for Smoking, The Godfather).

But in in this movie, he (and just about everyone else) comes across as too self-conscious and two-dimensional. Duvall's character, who never seems to be paying full attention to the other ones in the story, tries way too hard to come across as a New York wise guy.

As a result, he creates a protagonist who's not very witty, charming, funny, or very interesting. The "assassination" portion of Assassination Tango isn't all that compelling, because it mostly involves Duvall waiting around and talking to himself. Sometimes he does it in his underwear too, for variation.

However, the "tango" part of the movie has its own share of problems too, in that it's completely out of place with everything else going on. It never becomes essential to the central plot. Instead, it exists in a cinematic vacuum and never gets sufficiently explored.

Although Duvall is a good tango dancer in real life, it wouldn't be believable within the context of the story to see his character become an expert dancer in just a few days. As a teacher of this dance, I personally know that it takes years to become proficient.

So we only get to see Duvall dance during short dream or fantasy sequences. But beyond that, he's only watching tango or just listening to tango music (sometimes in his underwear, for variation).

Who would like this movie: This movie was meant for those who are intrigued by hitman plots and stuff about the meaning of life. But you won't find much of that in this film, unfortunately.

Although the premise of Assassination Tango is interesting and the elements for a good film are all there, I hate to say that the film is ultimately disappointing. The hitman aspect is too flimsy, and we don't see nearly enough of the tango stuff. The best part of the film is the dance sequence during the end credits (see video below).

(2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

The best scene: Pablo Verón and Geraldine Rojas dancing to the song Una Emocion

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