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Awesome: 20%
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1 review, 9 user ratings

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Assassination Tango
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by Scott Weinberg

"Honestly: who's cooler than Robert Duvall? Short answer: nobody."
4 stars

If you're the sort of prickly grown-up constantly insisting that Hollywood "doesn't make them like they used to", I have two pieces of advice for you: 1. Stop using that line, as it's patently untrue, and 2. Get enough of your tennis pals to go see Robert Duvall's newest flick because it's precisely the sort of low-key old-school grown-up drama that you're always pining for. If you don't support this one, Hollywood may just assume you're not interested and go back to more Rob Schneider/Matthew Lillard comedies.

If I asked you to name the most consistently reliable actors of the past 30-odd years, you’d logically rattle off names like DeNiro, Eastwood, Nicholson, Hackman and Pacino – brilliant performers who’ve managed to build phenomenal bodies of work while occasionally stepping behind the camera to tell a few tales of their own. (OK, Hackman’s never actually directed anything but he’s too damn cool to leave out..) Superlative character actor Robert Duvall threw his directorial hat into the ring fairly late in his career, starting with the somewhat obscure Angelo My Love (in 1983) before delivering the resoundingly well-received The Apostle in 1997. For his second feature, Duvall presents the low-key, old-fashioned and thoroughly enjoyable romantic drama Assassination Tango – one that pairs the celebrated auteur with his lovely wife Luciana Pedraza in her acting debut.

Sure, Luciana’s about half Bob’s age and his casting her in his own film fairly shrieks of nepotism…but so what? When it fails, we call it nepotism; when it works, we call it a ‘family affair’ – and for the very large part Assassination Tango absolutely ‘works’. Add to that the fact that Luciana seems a naturally talented actor and that the pair share a palpable and infectious chemistry onscreen (to say nothing of Duvall’s undeniably charming presence) and the result is a pairing that works infinitely better than, say, the most recent project between Guy Ritchie and HIS wife.

Assassination Tango is the story of an aging (yet still highly respected hitman) who is sent out on one big assignment – one that may be out of the aging assassin’s league. Disrupted from his safe, comfortable life (with longtime girlfriend and her adoring daughter) in New York City, John Anderson (Duvall) is sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to off a hated old military general. What’s initially promised as a 3-day trip slowly turns into a struggle of attrition, as Anderson’s quarry repeatedly augments his regular schedule – which makes the intended murder all the more difficult. In an effort to stave off homesickness, Anderson peruses the local nightclubs and finds himself wholly enamored by the local Tango scene, one which presents the painfully beautiful Manuela as a potential prize. The two strike up a tentative friendship – one that periodically seems like it will blossom into something a little more…personal.

If nothing else, Assassination Tango clearly illustrates Duvall’s passion for the art of Tango dancing, and his devotion to the dance is plainly evident in the film’s best scenes. But don’t get the impression that this is some stagy and dull ‘ballroom’ flick, as I don’t think a filmmaker of Duvall’s depth could ever deliver something resembling ‘plain old boring’. Despite the fact that Duvall plays a cold-blooded and efficient killer, Assassination Tango is in no way an Action Flick. Taken as a well-crafted and surprisingly touching character study.

If Duvall's presence in films that are clearly beneath him (Gone in 60 Seconds and Days of Thunder spring immediately to mind) are necessary in order for him to produce flicks like The Apostle and Assassination Tango, I certainly hope Jerry Bruckheimer never loses his phone number.

Look, I'm convinced that a film entitled "Robert Duvall Has a Conversation" would be worthy of my 110 minutes, so it's no surprise that I wholly enjoyed this satisfying little travel drama. Duvall proves himself an astute filmmaker and his onscreen presence is as irrepressably charming as ever. Assassination Tango isn't about to 'blow anyone out the back of the theater' but heck...who could see the end of a movie if they're sitting in a pile of rubble in the parking lot?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7207&reviewer=128
originally posted: 03/10/03 12:42:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/21/09 Judy Bendall Really entertaining especially if you catch the enthusiasm for the Tango that makes you wa 4 stars
6/01/09 Baloney Great tango scenes? scent of a woman or true lies. Great tango movie? look no further. 5 stars
2/21/04 Sil Thouroughly enjoyable couple of hours with Duvall.... ++ if u like either R.D. or Tango' 5 stars
12/06/03 Ken hundgen Fascinating character study 4 stars
5/17/03 Kevin Burke Beutifully filmed, he is great and she is beautiful. An excellent movie. Well made. 5 stars
5/02/03 Don Z. Miller the worst film I've seen in 70 years of film watching 1 stars
4/29/03 Rodney Tison I enjoyed the movie 4 stars
4/27/03 Dede Evans Wonderful - Duvall at his best! Felt real - not contrived - dancing was radiant. 4 stars
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  28-Mar-2003 (R)
  DVD: 04-May-2004



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