Friday, November 11, 2016

Kevin James Meanders Through The Erratic Spoof True Memoirs Of An International Assassin!

The Good: Performances are all right, especially the supporting ones, One or two clever moments
The Bad: Mostly dull characters, Erratic plot, Not very funny at all.
The Basics: True Memoirs Of An International Assassin is a truly mediocre comedy that never quite pops.

Netflix original films have been, unfortunately, a comparative disappointment relative to their original television programming. I sat down today to True Memoirs Of An International Assassin with understandably low expectations based on having seen a preview for the film and not being blown away by the premise and being unimpressed by other Netflix Original Films. But, low expectations or not, I sat down to True Memoirs Of An International Assassin with an open mind looking for something to make me laugh.

It failed.

True Memoirs Of An International Assassin is a comedic rendition of ideas that were presented in the superior films The Words (reviewed here!) and Stranger Than Fiction (reviewed here!), but with an action-adventure context to them.  Unfortunately, so many of the jokes and reversals are reused in the one hour, thirty-eight minute film that is starts to play as stale very quickly.

Opening with Mason Carver, an assassin who is in the middle of breaking up an illegal deal on the docks, getting blown up, the author of Carver's story recognizes that he has written himself into a corner. Figuring the scene out, author Samuel J. Larson manages to save his protagonist and the woman, but finds it hard to close the scene. Larson visits his friend, ex-analyst, Amos, who tells him the story about the assassin known only as "The Ghost" and Larson has his exit lines. Six weeks later, his book is picked up by an online publisher and Sam sells his book, which suddenly starts selling a ton of copies after his publisher/agent, Kylie Applebaum, lists it under "non-fiction." After losing Amos's friendship and running out on a Katie Couric interview, Larson finds himself in real peril.

Larson is kidnapped and taken to Venezuela where he is interrogated by Venezuelan guerillas, led by El Toro. Ruiz wants "The Ghost" to kill "President" Cueto, who is essentially a dictator installing himself for his next term. Larson is paired with Juan, who has already figured out that he is not The Ghost and they head to Caracas to gain intel before killing the Venezuelan President. When he escapes to the corrupt police, he is rescued by a DEA agent who wants to use him as bait to infiltrate drug lord Anton Masovich's compound. Masovich wants Larson to kill El Toro for him to help his business interests. Kicked between the three competing elements in Venezuela, Sam Larson must rise to the occasion to bring the criminals in Venezuela to justice with Rosa Bolivar.

Once upon a time, Kevin James impressed me with his performance in Here Comes The Boom (reviewed here!) and he is a credible protagonist for True Memoirs Of An International Assassin, at least for the parts where he portrays a writer. James is surprisingly good by nailing it through the action sequences where he plays Mason Carver without looking . . . well, like he's an out-of-shape writer who is running around using weaponry that it out of his league. James does especially well in playing the physical confidence of a writer who plays with weapons to familiarize himself with them. But while he is able to get through the physical rigors of the alternate role he plays in True Memoirs Of An International Assassin, James is surprisingly unfunny in his portrayal of Larson bumbling his way through conversations with guerilla leaders and drug kingpins.

Zulay Henao is good as DEA Agent Rosa Bolivar. She has a strong physical presence in True Memoirs Of An International Assassin and she presents Bolivar as both competent for a field agent and ethical in her role working for the DEA. While Bolivar would never be a legal agent on her own in Venezuela, Henao makes her character seem plausible.

The real surprises of True Memoirs Of An International Assassin are Kelen Coleman and Rob Riggle. Coleman has amazing control over her facial expressions to play Applebaum as smarmy and her second scene with Kevin James is the high point of humor in True Memoirs Of An International Assassin. Riggle manages to get through True Memoirs Of An International Assassin without descending into his loud, angry shtick and his brief role as a CIA agent is arguably his most varied performance of his career . . . and he's funny when he deadpans!

True Memoirs Of An International Assassin is essentially an action film that is loosely held together by Kevin James as Larson declaring that he needs to use the bathroom. The film is a mess when it comes to technical details - why kind of safe house doesn't have curtains?! - and the direction telegraphs almost all of the scenes that have James playing Carver instead of Larson. Director Jeff Wadlow delivers very little flair with the presentation of True Memoirs Of An International Assassin and it is hard not to feel bad for Wadlow when Netflix cheaped out on the film's locations (El Toro's compound sure looks like a reused location from Special Correspondents . . . they didn't even redress it!).

The only real cleverness in True Memoirs Of An International Assassin comes in the first scene where the CIA agents are introduced and the organization is characterized as a bumbling, uncaring, incompetent agency that has no real regard for protecting American citizens. Amid all of the over-the-top action and attempts a humor, the initially subtle jab at the intelligence agency that has had an unfortunate number of public failures is pretty funny.

But it is not enough to save True Memoirs Of An International Assassin. True Memoirs Of An International Assassin is not funny and it is not particularly clever, making for a film that is more bland than it is worthwhile to watch.

For other Netflix exclusive films, please check out my reviews of:
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
Special Correspondents
The Fundamentals Of Caring
The Ridiculous 6


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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