Film Review by Kam Williams
Assassin and Teen Make Strange Bedfellows in Unlikely-Buddies Dramedy
Ashby Holt (Mickey Rourke) has just been informed by his doctor (Max Lesser) that he only has a few months to live. Besides putting his personal affairs in order, the terminally-ill retired spy wants to ensure that he’s able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven upon his demise.
The problem is that he performed about a hundred hits over the course of his career with the CIA, thereby repeatedly violating the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” So, as a devout Catholic, he suddenly believes the only way he’ll be able to enter the proverbial Pearly Gates is by seeking forgiveness for his sins.
However, also weighing heavily on Ashby’s conscience is the innocent man he was once tricked into assassinating. And before confessing to Father Ted (Zachary Knighton), he’d first like to exact a measure of revenge on behalf of the victim by taking out the three evil superiors who had knowingly issued that order. Still, given his deteriorating health there’s no way he could probably pull off such a feat on his own.
That’s where Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) comes in. The nerdy 17 year-old newcomer is sorely in need of a good role model, given how his flaky mother (Sarah Silverman) sleeps around and his absentee-father is entirely out of the picture. Ed’s also having trouble fitting in at Varga Prep where he’s being teased for being a nerd by everyone but equally-geeky Eloise (Emma Roberts).
The plot thickens when he’s handed a school assignment to write a paper about an elder and he approaches his next-door neighbor, Ashby. The reclusive stranger agrees on the condition that the kid chauffeur him around town, conveniently hiding the fact that Ed will unwittingly be serving as a getaway driver for several grisly murders.
That’s the premise of Ashby, an unlikely-buddies dramedy written and directed by Peter McNamara (The Rage in Placid Lake). The movie unfolds almost like four films in one, since besides the Ed-Ashby dynamic, it devotes considerable attention to Ed’s dysfunctional home life, his budding romance with Eloise, and his attempt to make the football team.
Nevertheless, most of the picture’s tension revolves around whether Ashby will survive long enough to complete his grim tasks. Mickey Rourke proves the best of a very capable cast here, bringing the requisite balance of swagger and vulnerability to lend credibility to the rapidly-expiring title character.
A genre-blending adventure which somehow successfully combines elements of the coming-of-age and last hurrah formulas.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and some sexuality.
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures