March 28, 2023

The Indecipherable CODE OF THE ASSASSINS

2022 / 118 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

About halfway into Code of the Assassins, my daughter, Lucy, came into the room and sat down, engaged by the elaborate fight scenes (which play much like the video games she’s into). But before too long, she finally asked, “Dad, what the hell’s going on in this movie?”

Normally, I would have snarkily come back with, “Well, you should have watched from the beginning.” But this time, her question had considerable merit. Though it begins as a fairly straightforward revenge story, Code of the Assassins grows increasingly convoluted, introducing new characters or plot twists which significantly alter the narrative every ten minutes. By the time Lucy asked her question, I had given up all pretense of following the labyrinthine plot and simply took in the spectacle.

The only character we’re certain of is Junyuan (William Feng), who was raised by a village of masked assassins known as Ghost Valley. As a child, he helplessly watched his entire clan get slaughtered after his father designed a treasure map. Now, several other clans want the map and one of them hires Ghost Valley to kill whoever currently possesses it. But all Junyuan wants is revenge, so even though he wasn’t selected for this mission, he defies his elders and goes anyway.

Christmas with Slipknot.
But it’s at this point the story goes in a thousand different directions, introducing conspiracies, double-crosses and way too many secondary characters, most of whom have constantly shifting agendas. Rather than get frustrated, the film is best enjoyed for how it looks. Code of the Assassins is loaded with some spectacular fight sequences, sometimes with obvious CGI enhancement. And speaking of CGI, Junyuan is equipped with a multipurpose mechanical arm that shoots darts, throwing stars and allows him to snap necks from across the room. These scenes border on ridiculous, but they’re pretty entertaining, as are some of the other fantasy elements.

The film also benefits from impressive choreography and production design. We may give up on the plot, but Code of the Assassins is an aesthetic wonder, with elaborate sets, hyper-kinetic editing and some jaw-dropping fight sequences (even if they’re mostly devoid of plausibility). The visuals alone might make this one worth checking out. After all, they kept mine and Lucy’s attention ‘till the end.

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