The Assassin, the latest film from director Hsiao-Hsien Hou, is Taiwan's official entry to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. So as you'd expect, it has an excellent trailer. Take a moment to check it out below:
Great trailer, right? Here's the thing, it's rather misleading.
First, The Assassin is not an action movie. The trailer--at two and a half minutes long--shows every second of action of this film. EVERYTHING. It even shows the moment where the governor slams his cup on the floor. This film is 105 minutes long, so do the math and it's easy to see that it's not exactly action packed. And while the film does contain some legitimately cool combat, it is so fleeting that I would also not even call it a martial arts movie.
Since it's not really an action movie, you might expect that The Assassin delivers a more compelling story than your average kung fu flick. It does not. In the absence of action, there is also very little dialogue. With so much time available to tell a good story, this film does little with it. What you get are long, protracted shots of people starring into the distance instead of talking. I am not kidding, this is just a movie of people starring.
One thing The Assassin does have is beautiful landscapes. Some of its super-long, dialogue-free, action-less shots are downright gorgeous. They made me want to travel to the Wudang Mountains in Hubei, China to see the natural splendor for myself. But I didn't buy a ticket to a nature film, I thought I was going to see a martial arts movie.
The Assassin (original title "Nie yin niang") is glacially slow and dreadfully boring. It contains almost no action, sparse dialogue, and barely manages to tell its story. There are beautiful landscapes with beautiful actors in beautiful costumes, but they do very little. The Assassin is not an epic, it's not an action movie. Ultimately, it's an hour and a half of people starring at nothing in particular.