Monday, April 20, 2009

Character assassinations

When I heard about Michael Keaton's imminent comeback movie, I sighed in annoyance. Not about Keaton's return itself, which is a welcome one, but his choice of vehicle, a small-scale movie called "The Merry Gentleman." Stop me when this plot synopsis sounds familiar: A hitman forms an unlikely relationship with.... Need I continue?

The "hitman with a troubled conscience" story was wholly fresh when Jean Reno took a young Natalie Portman under his wing in 1994's "The Professional" (aka "Leon"). The premise also made for a hilarious romantic black comedy when John Cusack's Martin Q. Blank packed up his rifle scope for a return to his high-school reunion in 1997's "Grosse Point Blank." But now there's a whole genre of films about assassins who have a heart of gold hidden beneath their kevlar vests. Ben Kingsley in "You Kill Me," Pierce Brosnan in "The Matador," Nicolas Cage in "Bangkok Dangerous," and now "The Merry Gentleman," a story about a hired killer who begins a relationship with a woman (Kelly Macdonald) who is getting over an abusive relationship. Time to put a hit out on this genre....

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