Having resigned myself to accepting the Van Damme heyday was over and the remainder of his career would be limited to less than average DTV releases, along comes Assassination Games to revive my crestfallen heart and
prove low budget action does not have to be mindless, derivitive, and action-less abhorrations of film where the producer's only goal was to create a 90 minute timeline that could be packaged and labeled as a 'movie.'
While many are quick to categorize this film as standard action fare, nothing about it is standard: the dialogue, while just a notch above average, is coherent and well paced; the direction is competent; and the supporting players can actually act, entertaining you when the leads aren't on screen. I disagree with the reviewer who stated the lead villain (Polo Yakur, played by Ivan Kaye), was nothing more than a 'typical' heavy, because Kaye - while admittedly serving a narrow spectrum in the film - did inflect subtleties to make the character seem a grieving human being rather than just another over the top villain strutting around for the sake of malevolence.
It's true there isn't much fighting in this movie, but the fighting that is present serves purpose rather than being a fight scene dropped into the storyline simply to satisfy machismo. Because this movie works, you don't pine for more fighting or action, you want to see what happens to the characters. You become transfixed on the action but are satisfied with an even bigger bang when you learn where the action is leading. It's a mix that we rarely see in any DTV release nowadays, and I'm surprised this film was not given wider distribution in theaters.
As a Jean-Claude Van Damme film, I'm happy to say it is, beyond doubt, the best he has done in a long time. While The Shepard was watchable despite its predictable flaws, even die hard fans must admit to disappointment during a long dry spell of DTV crap where the only saving grace was Van Damme himself, lost amidst amateurish, no-talent schlock. With this single film, his heinous mistakes of the past - Derailed, Until Death, etc - are forgotten and forgiven. As a Scott Adkins film, it shows how good an actor he can be, thank goodness, something desperately needed in this genre when the action hero isn't kicking somebody around. As a team, the two performed well together and, I daresay, I'd be happy to see those two characters together again in a sequel. By the end of the film they have bonded and earned respect from each other, which is just the beginning for far more.