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Reviewer:Derek Armstrong, Assassins has a pretty low profile for a movie featuring so much talent. Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas may not strike a viewer as A-level properties, but consider that Julianne Moore is their co-star, Richard Donner is their director, Joel Silver is their producer and Andy and Larry Wachowski are their screenwriters, in the Wachowskis' first produced screenwriting/story credit. The movie delivers surprisingly well, given its apparent status as a throwaway actioner from the mid-90s. Assassins is one of those extended games of cat and mouse, where it's a joy just seeing smart people do clever things to get the upper hand and/or survive. To their credit, Stallone and Banderas successfully sell the idea that they're smart enough to do these smart things. This is key, because it grounds an otherwise sensational plot. A surprising amount of Assassins is cerebral, with lengthy breaks between action set pieces, and plenty of time devoted to letting strategic maneuvers play themselves out. That said, the action scenes are also pretty compelling. Banderas and Stallone repeatedly come in close proximity without actually being able to eliminate the other person, as in one tete-a-tete carried out from opposite sides of the bulletproof glass inside a taxi cab. Moore holds her own as the wild card in their epic reciprocal manhunt; she's the expert on a disk of encrypted data that serves as the requisite MacGuffin. Perhaps the most surprising element of Assassins is that it runs two hours and 12 minutes, yet doesn't feel indulgent. That's simply the amount of time needed to build the story to where it's going: a tension-filled climax whose denouement is only slightly disappointing. Given how Assassins was overlooked by critics and audiences, it's amazing there isn't more there to disappoint us. ~ Derek Armstrong, Rovi

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