Sony // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // August 13th, 2009
Thou shalt not kill!
Hooray, yet another film about a laconic hitman who develops a conscience. We've seen it all before, but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining...does it?
Chance Templeman (Rick Yune, The Fast and the Furious) was an orphan, taken as an infant and raised by the most pimp of all hitmen (Keith David, Dead Presidents) to follow in his footsteps. He leads a solitary life, taking care of business, until one assignment puts him at odds with his adopted family. Conflict ensues. Chance is targeted by other men in his profession and lots of people get shot, stabbed, pummeled, and dispatched in many a rather unpleasant manner.
It's been at least 17 minutes since the last time Hollywood turned out a flick about a rogue assassin. For brevity's sake, I won't run down the litany of film titles that come to mind. Two things most of them have in common: 1) a ton of people die, and 2) they generally suck.
Just about every film in the "rogue assassin" genre generally follows the same modius oprandi: We meet a consummate badass of a hitman (usually stoic and gruff), with a knack for getting into and out of places unseen, and an innate ability to ninja large groups of people to death. He's got a set routine that shows us just how elite he is, and how he keeps his razor sharp skills so Gillette sharp. This typical cold-hearted bastard is seen making a mission or two look far too easy, before being given his latest assignment by a mysterious fixer or talent scout. Some plot convenience or another pops up to shine the sun on said hitman's frozen heart, and a crisis of conscience forces him to abandon his hunt, usually siding with the very prey he was sent to kill, while vowing to keep them safe, even if it costs him his life.
What usually follows is a metric ton of action, as the leading man's peers -- slightly less consummate in their bad-assery -- hunt him down with the intention of making his compassionate ass very dead. Typically, there's also a scene thrown in where the leading man awkwardly tries to interact with said former target, and love blooms.
While I won't say The Fifth Commandment follows the formula to the letter, there really aren't many surprises. Interpret that however you will.
Sony's DVD treatment is also standard fare. The video is a touch soft and grainy, but I didn't notice any flaws that would detract from your viewing enjoyment, outside of the slightly low-budget look of the proceedings. Everything is a little dark and murky, but that's more of a stylistic choice. The sound is adequate, but the gunfights in particular lack a bit of presence. I'm inclined to blame the shortcomings on the source material, as the effects for gunfire and explosions don't really have a whole lot of volume in the mix.
Extras are slim, consisting of two brief featurettes. They're okay, but I wouldn't be broken hearted if you skipped them.
No, the plot didn't exactly set my heart aflutter, but the action, that's another story entirely. Stuntman/Director Jesse V. Johnson (The Butcher) knows how to frame a fight scene. He gives just enough of a modern flair to the proceedings, with some fast moving cameras and overcranking, but lingers long enough so the action is easy to follow and has some impact. The choreography and stunt work on display is top drawer. The fights are pretty brutal affairs, with bullets ripping through torsos in squib-a-licious fashion, accompanied by some bone crunching hand-to-hand stuff. There's more than enough carnage to satisfy the need and it all feels pretty fresh, despite the stale plot that underpins it all.
Performances are also pretty solid across the board. Rick Yune looks comfortable with all the action, and does a fine job of kicking ass. He doesn't quite sell the "tough guy" coldness of his character, but in the warmer moments he's engaging and charismatic. He could have a bright future as an action guy. Keith David does what he does best, convincing us he's the baddest man alive. His early scenes, set in the 1970s as the "Jazz Man" were a hoot, and he steals the show during the training sequences with the young boy who would grow up to be Chance Templeman. Bokeem Woodbine (The Rock) pops up as Chance's brother and eventual partner, managing well enough. The villains are suitably villain-ish, though they don't have much of a background to work with. Leading lady Dania Ramierez (Heroes) didn't do much for me, but she didn't really diminish the flick either.
Just once, I'd love to see a hitman flick where the rogue assassin actually hits his target, kills the cute little girl next door, kills the police chief's son and the blind singer, takes out an army of fellow hitmen, and walks off into the sunset alone, not a scratch on him, a bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold in one hand, a tightly rolled Cohiba in the other, wearing some corrupt politician's teeth as a necklace, and grinning like an idiot. Alas, The Fifth Commandment just straddles the same old horse these flicks have been riding since the dark ages. Its saving grace is the quality of the action on display, Rick Yune's ability to sell it, and Keith David being Keith David.
Judge not lest ye be judged. Ah hell, Not Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Steve Power; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R