Sunday, 11 December 2016

True Memoirs Of An International Assassin (2016) - Movie Review
I’ve briefly touched on this topic before, but still, the question begs to be asked: Why do people tell the stories that they do? More to the point, why do people create the stories that they do? The answers are great and varied from a want to convey an emotion that is too potent for mere verbal communication to contain on its own, to an innate need to comment on something wrong with society, past or present. Hell, sometimes it can be just a desire to tell a story and using whatever elements are at your low-to-nill disposable income to make it happen. Insert joke about how Happy Madison’s alumni don’t need a reason for the films they make and just do it for the money.

That mentality that looks into why these stories exist is the main reason why I love metafiction as much as I do; I love stories that question the inner workings of its own making and the people pulling the strings to make it happen. So, even considering this film’s current standing at a flat 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, I’ll admit that I was curious about this one. Since we’re all thinking the same thing at this point, that I’m giving this film too much credence to exist, let’s just get into this thing already.

The plot: Accountant Sam (Kevin James) has been working on a novel titled Memoirs Of An International Assassin, a fictional account taken from research Sam did into the logistics of the story and asking the right questions to a friend of his who used to work in the CIA. However, when it comes time to publish it, internet publisher Kylie (Kelen Coleman) takes it to the online market in the non-fiction section. Amidst the media furor involving this supposed black operative opening up about his line of work, Sam is kidnapped by Venezuelan guerrilla leader El Toro (Andy García) and tasks him to kill the Venezuelan president Cueto (Kim Coates). However, once DEA agent Rosa (Zulay Henao) gets involved, it seems that things are only going to get weirder from here.

The cast here is decent, even in spite of the material they’ve been given. James, who is honestly underrated as an actor when he’s got the right character, manages to work past his physical attributes and make him being this knowledgeable and (in some cases) skilled in the activities he writes about kind of plausible. Henao makes for a good partner alongside James, García is fun as the roguish rebel, Coleman… okay, she’s incredibly annoying, but that’s only because she’s a little too good in her role of the abjectly stupid publisher, Rifkin as Sam’s confidante is nice and underplayed, Rob Riggle is great as the CIA agent who is pretty much the only voice of reason in the entire film, Coates as the president is nice in that American-installed leader kind of way, and Andrew Howard as insurgent Masovich is clearly having fun as this over-the-top Villain-List-defying bad guy.

The story starts out on actually a pretty decent with Sam writing the titular book. From how his writing style and research is depicted, he comes across a somewhat pudgier version of Tom Clancy. With that comes certain questions about the intent of the work and what Sam has to gain from it which, while stepping into “I hate my life, so I’ll create a fictional one to live vicariously through” territory that just annoys me when it comes to depicting creators of fiction, could have made for an interesting take on the ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances framework. I mean, using fiction to obfuscate painful reality has been a literary technique for as long as literary techniques have existed, and that line between fiction and personal experience is honestly worth exploring.

What a shame that within record time, the film starts to completely fall apart. Specifically, as soon as the book gets published. This is another one of those situations where, in deep contrast to the Clancy heavily researched style, this story clearly wasn’t meant to hold up to real-world logic. I mean, the list just keeps growing from that point on: False advertisement, accusations of libel, the fact that an assassin that high-profile wouldn’t be so stupid as to publicly reveal his work and show his identity, right down to the basic idea of using the Internet to publish it, when that very tool could be used to immediately fact-check him as not being the real; it is simply preposterous, both in its sense of “reality” and in the idea that audiences are going to accept this.

So, it’s bunk as a look at metafiction and as a farce; how about as a straight-up action movie? Well, despite having plenty of decent people working on it like director Jeff Wadlow, whose affinity for ultraviolence works alright in the action scenes, and composer extraordinaire Ludwig Göransson who creates awesome sonic backdrops for this film, it’s the writing again that lets it down. Sam basically gets tossed around between three political powers in Venezuela to essentially kill each other, and in the right hands that could have made for either a clever and intricate thriller or a dark but fun comedic caper. This film, either out of not knowing where to take the material or possibly just a lack of caring, does neither and is just content with forcing this hapless goofball into one contrived abduction after another. It’s quite irritating, especially when none of the Venezuelan powers end up being the villain of this story, and instead that bloody agent that published the book in the first place for so pointlessly getting this guy involved in any of this.

All in all, I totally get why this is sitting on a 0%: Because this film, as far as I can tell, really doesn’t have any appeal for any audience. There are a few fun moments throughout, the action scenes are decent and the soundtrack shows that Göransson never slouches regardless of the garbage he’s tied to, but those aren’t nearly enough to salvage what is ultimately a pointless venture. I refrain from calling it outright bad (even though it kind of is), and rather just label this lame… which, at least for me, is an even more damning statement.

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