The premise, like the movie that follows, is simple enough. Golding stars as Morgan, an ex-Marine sniper turned hired killer who may look spry enough but is already considering retirement. Morgan dreams of starting a new life with his girlfriend Sophie (Daniela Melchior), but he must first complete one last high-paying job, and it’s obviously too good to be true: kill six villainous criminals for a million dollars a head.
Soon, the hunter becomes the hunted as Morgan realizes that the other six killers are fellow assassins, and oh yeah, there’s a bounty on his head, too. To find answers, Morgan seeks out the mysterious “Falk,” the only unidentified person among Morgan’s six targets. Golding’s character is also chased after by the conventionally short-tempered Interpol Agent Vos, played by Noomi Rapace. Intrigue should follow but, sadly, does not.
“Assassin Club” slouches from one plot development to the next, despite some lively, but poorly mounted action scenes; the choreographers, stuntpeople, and on-screen performers hit their marks, but the cameras don’t often flatter them. Golding stands out, if only for how hard he struggles to make something of his sketchy character.
It’s still probably telling that the most compelling parts of Morgan’s quest involve his mysterious broker/mentor Caldwell, played with some amused relish by Sam Neill. Morgan thinks Caldwell has betrayed him because Caldwell’s always lined up Morgan’s jobs for him, and also has convinced Morgan that he’s doing the right thing by only killing bad people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel shocking or especially dramatic when Morgan discovers that Caldwell lied about his six targets’ identities.
The mischievous energy that Neill brings to his scenes might give viewers pause—maybe Caldwell’s right when he insists that he’s not really betraying Morgan—or sporadically give “Assassin Club” the illusion of emotional depth. Too bad the moviemakers aren’t really concerned with the weird tension that Caldwell’s character introduces, and Neill’s performance whisks away with him when he exits the picture.
More screentime is predictably devoted to Agent Vos, who tries to push the plot along by interrogating various supporting characters with a head-scratching accent that sounds like a cross between a Southern hick and a Lithuanian cabby. Then there are the other killers that Morgan’s supposed to hunt. Their defining quirks are never fully exploited either, which makes it harder to root for Golding’s beleaguered protagonist as he necessarily reacts to pulpy foils like Yuko (Sheena Hao), a man-hating martial artist, and Anselm (Claudio Del Falco), a finger -collecting psychotic.