Assassination (1987) – A Review

Charles Bronson Jill Ireland Assassination 1987 action movie

Some bad guys are out to get First Lady Jill Ireland. Luckily she’s being guarded by tough, no-nonsense secret agent Charles Bronson. The bad guys won’t stand a chance!

The secret agent and First Lady might not like each other, but through a series of explosive, over-the-top action scenes you can bet they’ll soften towards each other before the end credits roll.

Directed by Peter Hunt, Assassination is another disposable Bronson action flick brought to us by the fine folks at Cannon Films. Unfortunately, it isn’t as cheesily fun for a brainless Saturday night actioner as some of his other outings were.

Assassination Charles Bronson Jill Ireland 1987 Cannon action movieCannon was notorious with it’s cheapness. They loved to cut as many corners as possible when making a movie.

So, Assassination attempts to do the most with what it had – and it’s not exactly a rousing success. I did think some of the inside DC sets were adequate, along with the obvious use of stock footage. Those were the only aspects this had to give the allure it was some big time political actioner. It’s not enough.

There’s no getting away from the eye-rolling shots of palm trees in downtown Washington DC. Or the presidential parade that looks like something a small town would have with the local girl scout troop leading it. I bet they stole some of the shots that have actual DC monuments in the background too. I imagine it was a quick ‘shoot and run’ -type of scenario.

It does help that for the majority of the movie Bronson and Ireland are running around in desert towns far away from the cityscape of D.C. The filmmakers probably felt they had to get out of DC or it would break their bank and their their limited ability of trying to sell that setting.

Chuck fans should be warned that this is not a hardcore actioner like the usual Bronson/Cannon fare. Assassination was rated PG-13, so it doesn’t quite deliver on the outrageous brutal killing that fans want to see from him.

Charles Bronson Jill Ireland Assassination 1987 movieI guess they hoped the movie might have been a more mainstream hit and attempted to appeal to a broader audience. It didn’t work. Assassination bombed at the box office. It’s often cited as one of Bronson’s worst movies. They should have stuck with an R-rating and had Bronson unload unmerciful amounts of ammo into the bad guys

One more notable piece of trivia for Assassination was it was the eighteenth and final onscreen pairing of Bronson and wife Ireland. She would die in 1990 from breast cancer.

Assassination’s story itself is ludicrous. Bronson gets wind that First Lady Ireland’s life is in danger. Apparently her and the Prez’s marriage is more a political cover than what the public realizes and now seeking re-eleciton the Prez feels he’ll easily win if he’s a widower. He has no problem dispatching the Missus. That’s quite complicated deadly lengths this guy will goto to win the election. I don’t know. I guess, we could go along with it.

The plot is pretty breezed over anyway and it’s just an excuse for Bronson and Ireland to hit the road and be chased by bad guys.

They’re riding motorcycles, they take a train ride, they hop in a dune buggy. And of course with every stop they make, there’s assassins who show up and fans get their bullets and explosions they expect.

Assassination 1987 Charles Bronson rocket launcherThere’s no mistaking Assassination for anything but a low-rent 80’s action flick. There’s plenty of the old clichés thrown in here. We get those tinkling music cues when there’s shots of bad guys or suspicious activity going on. Bronson has a secret service agent sidekick Jan Gan Boyd who has the hots for him (she is downright awful in this by the way).

Bronson and Ireland engage in forced back and forth bantering. There’s even those clunky edits right before we see close-ups of guys getting shot in the face. You know, a close-up of a bad guy screaming – cut to his car exploding. It’s that kind of stuff.

There are a few truly laughable things in here. Boyd spending her evening wearing a neglige, sitting in bed, eating strawberries, just hoping Bronson will want to join her. Ireland in disguise wearing a wig, pretending to listen to her radio and doing some weird dance. This bizarre woman somehow not only goes unnoticed by the crowd of reporters, but everyone else around who would in reality be saying, “Look at that crazy lady!”. Bronson with his innate secret service talents is the only one who figures out she’s actually the First Lady.

When Bronson gets on a machine-gun wielding motorcycle and shoots a rocket launcher into a barn I was trying to catch my breath laughing asking, ‘where the hell did that come from???” Maybe Cannon had it leftover from The Delta Force and it was easy to use.

If there was more of those kind of ridiculous scenes Assassination might have been worthwhile and been fun cheesy entertainment. Instead there’s too many long lulls in between the spurts of action – and no one is going to care about what’s happening in those lulls! At the end the film wraps up so abruptly you’ll wonder if a reel got lost somewhere!

There’s nothing to see here. Assassination certainly doesn’t rival the superior In the Line of Fire for a thrilling popcorn assassination thriller. It even makes some of Bronson’s other Cannon work, some of which are quite bad, better in comparison. At least they could fall into the ‘it’s so bad, it’s good category’ and give you a kick from them. Assassination doesn’t even manage to do that.

1 Comment

  1. I can’t argue with anything you’ve put down but I’ll always have a soft spot for ASSASSINATION. As a kid growing up overseas, my bros. and I watched and rewatched our VHS tape, reciting lines and copying the jet ski chase. Charles Bronson was a familiar face in my dad’s VHS westerns who had the familiar tough guy roles. I had no concept of studio tiers and so Cannon was no different than Paramount to me. I will credit the back and forth banter between Charles and Jill Ireland, especially compared to more contemporary (or even going back to the nineties) on-screen couples who ascribe to bigger, louder, more obnoxious conduct to convey “chemistry”.

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