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:


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.