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Disc Covering: “The Assassin Next Door” Is Smarter Than You Think

Disc Covering: “The Assassin Next Door” Is Smarter Than You Think (photo)

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Immediately after she saw the George Clooney film, “The American,” IFC.com editor Alison Willmore tweeted, “Are there ever any HAPPY assassins? They’re always moping around by themselves. There has to be some upside to it as a career choice.” She had an excellent point: movie after movie portray hitmen as dour, moody depressives. Presumably no one is forcing these people into the profession. The economy’s not that bad, and it’s not one of those jobs that’s passed down from one generation to the next like a cobbler in Victorian England (“You want me to be like you Dad! But I’m not like you! I don’t want to use an M40 rifle to lay down supressive fire!”). Surely their skills — accuracy with guns and knives, making enigmatic conversations seem incredibly charming, doing lots of pushups without a shirt on — would suit them well in other jobs. What about the comfortable and very lucrative field of private security?

The first thing that jumped out at me about this week’s straight-to-video selection, “The Assassin Next Door,” is that it features a sad assassin who has a damn good reason to be depressed. She’s a Russian prostitute stuck in Israel, forced to pay off her debt to her pimp by becoming a killer for hire. Unless she murders who he says, when he says, she’ll never get the money and passport she needs to return to her family in Russia. See, now that’s a good reason to be bummed about being a professional murderer! It may be hard out here for a pump but it’s way harder for the woman he forces at gunpoint to shoot people for him.

“The Assassin Next Door”
Directed by Danny Lerner

09072010_assassin2.jpgTagline: Beware of thy neighbor.

Tweetable Plot Synopsis: Justifiably sad assassin teams up with battered spouse to free themselves from shackles of patriarchal society while looking extremely hot.

Salable Elements: Bond girl Olga Kurylenko as said sad assassin; a
world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film festival.

Biggest Success: Kurylenko wasn’t the most believable former Bolivian secret service agent in “Quantum of Solace,” possibly because in real life she’s a former not-Bolivian supermodel. But I have to say: she is very convincing as Russian-prostitute-turned-reluctant-killer Galia in “The Assassin Next Door.” Her accent and her English was never her strong suit, but this film permits her to speak primarily (and much more naturally) in her native Russian.

She just looks and sounds the part (only in a film review can you say that a woman looks and sounds like a hooker and mean it as a compliment). Her performance in “Quantum of Solace” — which made Denise Richards’ nuclear physicist from “The World is Not Enough” look authentic in comparison — made me think she was going to wind up on the Lois Chiles end of post-Bond girl careers. “The Assassin Next Door” suggests otherwise.

09072010_assassin3.jpgBiggest Failure: “The Assassin Next Door” is an accurate but somewhat misleading title. True, Galia lives next door to a woman whom she befriends and assists. But the title suggests wacky shenanigans ahead, possibly involving adorable child actors who help Kurylenko oil her guns or shine her garrote wire. That’s simply not the case.

The film is much more a moody character study about two women learning to stand up to the men that abuse them than a cutesy action-comedy (or even a traditional straight-to-video exploitation action picture). The filmmakers probably should have stuck with the film’s original and far more appropriate Hebrew title, “Kirot,” which literally translates to “Walls.”

Best Moment: An impressive long take that follows Kurylenko, her eyes darting everywhere with barely contained anxiety, as she enters a dance club, seeks out her target, stalks her across the dance floor, and then follows her into a bathroom where she must kill her. Imagine if Ray Liotta walked into the Copa in “Goodfellas” and then immediately shot a guy in the front row, and you’ve got the idea.

I Question: the first meeting between Galia and her next door neighbor Elinor (Ninette Tayeb). “My name’s Elinor,” she says, “like the song,” before proceeding to sing the song, earnestly and very sweetly, on a public bus. Have you ever met anyone who shared a name with a famous song who didn’t hate that song and anyone who brought it up? You think Willmore introduces herself as “Alison, like the song” and then busts out the Elvis Costello? No, never.

Best Line: “I thought we’d celebrate properly, with Hummus and Vodka.” — Kurylenko’s pimp, after she successfully carries out a hit.

09072010_assassin4.jpgWorthy of a Theatrical Release? Surprisingly, yes. Despite the cheesy title, “The Assassin Next Door” is a mature and satisfying variation on the sad assassin genre. It’s a type of character we’ve seen before, in a setting (the Israeli underworld) and a style (female revenge fantasy) that feels unique. I like writer/director Danny Lerner’s unconventional take on the conventions of this genre: for example, instead of going to a priest for the tired scene where the sad assassin confesses their sins and unsuccessfully seeks absolution, Galia convinces Elinor to take her to a mikvah, a ritual Jewish bath for married women. This is one of those movies that does enough things right (good performances, impressive camerawork, clever genre twists) to forgive the things it does wrong.

For Further Viewing: The official trailer for the film, which sells it as exactly the sort of slick, buddy action film it deconstructs:

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.