I’ve always had a soft spot for movies about rogue assassins and how stories about them seem to bring forth a morality play and a theme on redemption. I am not sure, but I guess stories where people who have done despicable things and then they come seeking a form of atonement have always fascinated me; after all, we are human and none of us are perfect and each one have sinned. However, much as I am into these type of stories, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that “human Viagra pill” Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) was the primary reason why I saw “The Assassin Next Door”; an Israeli-action drama directed by Danny Lerner in 2009. The film was originally titled “Kirot” which translates to “Walls” and I sure wish that the American release didn’t have this new title since it just reminds me of that painful Jackie Chan American flick.
Galia (Olga Kurylenko) is an Ukranian sex slave who works in Tel Aviv who tries to escape her captors with another woman (Yana Goor). However, she is unsuccessful and the Russian mob catches them and her companion is brutally killed. The mob boss Roni (Liron Levo) becomes convinced by Mishka (Vladimir Friedman) to give her another chance if she can take on another line of work. This would be the role of an assassin. Galia is supposed to complete some assignments and in exchange she can get a surmountable amount of money and her passport back. Galia agrees so that she can have the chance to come back to see her daughter back home. Now, after a few jobs, Galia is given a small apartment where she befriends a battered wife named Eleanor (Ninette Tayeb). The two develop a bond since they have similar experiences. But things go awry, as Galia is pushed to her limits and chooses to fight against the very Russian mob that employs her…
Ok, let me go straight to the point. “Kirot” (allow me to refer to the film with its original title) is not the type of film that Olga Kurylenko seemed to have been stapled with in Hollywood. In the States, she seemed to have stereotypical roles that display her sexuality. Yes, there is a scene or two that shows her in a sexy outfit and one scene where she was naked, but it wasn’t anything sexual. “Kirot” is a drama that channels themes of redemption, friendship and choices. The premise of the film is quite simple and admittedly, the film is a low-budget affair. But I suppose it made it part of its charm as it uses simplicity and human drama to become its aces rather than action.
The film takes the relationship between Galia and Eleanor to the central stage. You see the two become odd acquaintances and then as you become privy to their developing trust. Kurylenko and Tayab make for a convincing pair of two women who seek peace and escape; the parallels to their lives are fleshed out by the direction. You see the two women struggle with their crises and confusion, they learn from one another and they seem to learn to understand their lives from another’s life. Both lives were entrenched in misfortune and the two seek to make the right choices. They find themselves through their emotions and how they began to care and sympathize with one another. There was a very touching moment when Galia sought to be ‘cleanse’ and how Eleanor was so confused with a decision. It was a fine display of their reliance to each other; similar tragedies and broken dreams seek like company.
I know some people may see some parts of the drama to feel rather ‘wooden’ but please keep in mind that these are two women who have kept their emotions to themselves for such a long time. Kurylenko and Tayeb do develop chemistry albeit it was a little heavy-handed at some points. The supporting cast was alright, but I did feel that they were caricatures of the criminal element. Please keep in mind that the film has some strong depictions of violence against women, but this was necessary to make the ‘payback’ much more effective.
“Kirot” is a slow-moving affair, so while there are scenes of assassination, the action doesn’t really pick up until the final act. Danny Lerner keeps the action grounded and realistic. The gunfight was pretty intense but it doesn’t feel choreographed, Galia exhibited fear as she fought back, her eyes expressed both anger and anxiety and I thought it was a nice touch for the direction not to portray Galia as a bad-ass but rather a woman who is just trying to survive. The cinematography and mood is kept in a darker tone with muted colors probably to express the bleak situation the two are under.
I suppose “The Assassin Next Door” is a decent fare in the genre of action dramas; it is a straightforward tale of redemption and friendship, it is a story of escaping your past to begin anew, but sometimes we are defined by that past. Only your choices will define you anew, and the right road to take is oftentimes the hardest one to take.
Timid Recommendation to fans of Foreign Films and a Rental for Everyone else. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars] Note: The film's primary language is English, but it uses the Russian and Hebrew languages more often within its narrative.
Olga Kurylenko goes mean and realistic as a female assassin seeking escape and peace in this Israeli-made film. Mostly known for her sexy roles, it is very refreshing to see her in a more edgy role than usual. Tough, simple and gritty, "The Assassin Next Door" may have been retitled to suit American viewers but it succeeds as an action drama.