I saw "Assassination Tango" in a theater when it was first released back in 2003. As I recall, this movie did not get very wide distribution at all. I really did not know what to expect but I must tell you that I was positively mesmerized by this film. Recently, I picked up a copy of "Assassination Tango" and viewed it again for the first time in seven years. I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Robert Duvall grabbed my attention in the opening scene and simply never let go.
In "Assassination Tango" Duvall plays hit man John J. who is an individual chock full of contradictions. Despite what he chooses to do for a living John likes to think of himself as "family man" who positively adores his girlfriend Maggie (Kathy Baker) and most especially her 10 year old daughter Jenny (Katherine Micheaux Miller) who is the light of his life. John J's latest assignment finds him off to Buenos Aires, Argentina for what he expects will be about a three day sojourn. Once in Argentina he learns that he was brought there to take out an unpopular aging General. This one would be quick and easy, neat and clean. But suddenly there were complications. His target the General had been injured in an accident and would be confined to his bed for at least a couple of weeks. Those who had brought him to Argentina to do the deed still wanted this done and determined that it would be very dangerous for John to leave the country and return later on. So now John has lots of time on his hands. One evening he wanders into a nightclub quite by chance and is positively captivated by what he sees. Tango is unlike anything he has seen before. He loves the passion and the elegance of it all. He discovers that the tango is a highly syncopated dance with staccato steps. The couples he observes on the floor dance it with a certain sensual, dramatic flair, in a close embrace, their faces pointed in the same direction, arms extended, hands clasped or palms together. He wants to know more and he longs to take part.
Shortly thereafter he meets Manuela (Luciana Pedraza) She is a tantalizing creature who is all too happy to acquaint our hero with all of the finer points of this Latin-American dance. He develops a relationship with her while continuing to make preparations to execute the job he was sent there to do. John senses that he needs to keep moving and at one point he discovers that the plot has been compromised. He is very nearly apprehended and finds himself in an extremely tight spot. He determines that he will carry off the execution his way. Meanwhile, he continues to see Manuela and in one of the most compelling scenes in the film he enjoys dinner with Manuela and members of her family. At one point in the conversation Manuela's aunt explains to John just what tango is. "Tango is life, love, hate" she says and then goes on to give a very moving and beautiful description of what it all means. The interplay between John's work and his developing relationship with Manuela is fascinating to watch unfold.
As I recall the critics were sharply divided in their opinions of this film. I must side with those who enjoyed it. I found "Assassination Tango" to be a very well written and beautifully photographed motion picture. I also thought the acting was superb. If you have not seen this one I strongly urge you to check it out. The screenplay was written by Robert Duvall. Very highly recommended!
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Assassination Tango is a 2002 Argentine crime film directed by and starring Robert Duvall. It is a thriller based in the steamy side of Argentine tango. Other actors include Rubén Blades, Kathy Baker and Duvall's wife, Luciana Pedraza. Francis Ford Coppola was one of the executive producers; the entire film was shot in Argentina.
Quote from the rottentomatoes synopsis: