What sort of opportunities do being a Bond babe present? Well, movies like The Assassin Next Door, you might think, headlined by Quantum of Solace‘s Olga
Kurylenko. In actuality, though, this Israeli import isn’t a straight-ahead shoot-’em-up, but instead an action-tinged drama whose downmarket title and baser revenge instincts actually belie a somewhat interesting tale of interpersonal connection by two wounded women.
Written and directed by Danny Lerner (Frozen Days), the movie centers on Galia (Kurylenko), a Russian woman who gets caught up in a bad situation and indebted to the mafia. She just wants her passport so she can reunite with her young daughter Lena, whom
she left back in Russia, but gangster Roni (Liron Levo) and his lackey Mishka
(Vladimir Friedman) have other plans for her, and utilize her ability to gain access to certain areas to assassinate people on their behalf.
In an rundown apartment building, Galia encounters another woman with a need to escape, her neighbor Eleanor (Israeli platinum recording artist Ninet Tayeb), a grocery store clerk who suffers at the hands of an abusive husband. The two experience a standoffish beginning to their relationship, but eventually grudgingly bond over their respective senses of cultural disconnection. As days darken for each woman they grow even closer, seeking to break out and beyond the constraints of their horrible situations.
Lerner doesn’t have the budget to stage a big sweeping club scene and a bunch of shootouts, so when The Assassin Next Door is forced to exercise its action muscles as above, its claustrophobically staged fisticuffs, beat-downs and the like don’t really excite in any conventional sense. Instead, paradoxically, what gives the movie lift is the weighty sense of doom facing each woman, and how they find to-scale solace in one another. Kurylenko and Tayeb have a nice chemistry together, and Lerner dirties up the women’s respective natural beauty, undercutting any chance of this becoming a glamorous showcase. While the outside forces complicating Galia and Eleanor’s lives are somewhat stock-issue, and hamstrung by a few implausibilities, Lerner trusts his actresses and really knows how to slow-peddle a dialogue scene, much to the benefit of the material.
The Assassin Next Door is very much not the movie one expects it to be given its title, but that’s not at all a bad thing. (The true emotional catharsis of the film, far from the wrought vengeance that finally separates the ladies from their dire circumstances, actually concerns Galia’s spiritual cleansing and rebirth at a mikveh, which is something understandably conspicuously absent from its DVD cover box description). A character drama masquerading as something much more kick-ass, Lerner’s film may be something of a “tweener” (too thoughtful and esoteric to please straight-to-video action fans merely looking for Kurylenko to bare some skin and cap some suckers in stiletto heels, and too coercive in some of its base-level conflict for fans of cultured foreign dramas), but it is surprisingly involving.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, The Assassin Next Door comes to DVD presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with an English language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track, and optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. An active menu screen gives way to a static menu of a dozen chapter stops, but other than a gallery of five previews there are unfortunately no other supplemental materials. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) D (Disc)