Review / Assassin’s Creed (M) *

DESPITE a stellar cast (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling) Australian film-maker Justin Kurzel’s third feature did less than nothing for me. 

Getting full value from it may depend on having played the computer game of the same name.  I haven’t.

Kurzel’s first feature “Snowtown” was uncompromisingly good despite its gruesome theme. “Assassin’s Creed” does exemplary gruesome. A 16th century Spanish prelate warms up an audience waiting to watch the Inquisition’s method of disposing of heretics, an auto da fe. The last moving-image, of which I saw, was in the not-always-satisfying TV series, “The Accursed Kings” when as the flames began exhausting oxygen in 1314, the last Grand Master of the Order of the Templars, Jacques de Molay (Gerard Depardieu), put the mockers on the current French dynasty. It worked, but didn’t hurry about it.

In “Assassin’s Creed”, the Templars cleave to the mantra of control. The mantra of the Assassins is free will. In the 21st century, a firm connected to the Templars is spending big bucks studying the “bleeding effect” which purports to occur when a character’s genetic memory, reaching back for several generations, tangles with his/her contemporary experiences.

“Genetic memory”. That’s a new notion, created, I suspect, for the game and the film. The film has it resting with professional criminal Cal (Fassbender) whom the firm wants to see what happens when he’s strapped on to a crane that rotates him on several axes. Driving this mechanical beast is Sophie (Cotillard) whose dad (Irons) happens to be top dog in the Templars. 

Am I confusing you? As the film flashed from century to century, from country to country, keeping track of its eras and locations confused me. Its images are too often insufficiently lit. In that semi gloom, too many characters have their faces hidden underneath cowls. The action spends big chunks of running time watching warriors brandishing pointy or edged weapons as they rush cross rooftops or other difficult battle-grounds. Excitement palls, boredom takes charge.

Film-goers who’ve not played the computer game but who crave a clear comprehension of what’s going on might find “Assassin’s Creed” less than rewarding. And check out that title. Note where the apostrophe sits. Are we to believe that only one followed the creed?

At Dendy, Hoyts, Capitol 6

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