True Memoirs of an International Assassin, 2016.
Directed by Jeff Wadlow.
Starring Kevin James, Andy Garcia, Zulay Henao, Maurice Compte, Andrew Howard, Rob Riggle, Kelen Coleman, Leonard Earl Howze, Yul Vasquez and Kim Coates.
After a publisher changes a writer’s debut novel about a deadly assassin from fiction to nonfiction, the author finds himself thrust into the world of his lead character, and must take on the role of his character for his own survival.
Going into this movie, I must admit, my expectations were measured. On the one hand, I was expecting it to be in a similar vein to other vehicles for Kevin James – something akin to Pixels, perhaps. Yet on the other hand, when doing a little research about the movie I found out that the script had been on the 2009 Black List (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s an industry catalogue of the best unproduced screenplays pitched in any given year), which certainly indicated a level of quality to the movie. So, I approached the movie with tentative hopes, more curious than anything else.
It wasn’t long before my expectations were surpassed – True Memoirs opens with a very well-directed opening sequence from director Jeff Wadlow, which immediately conveys that the movie is, in fact, going to be pretty good. This carries on throughout, with a slick and stylish piece of work that is in fact impressively polished; I was particularly impressed by some simple yet effective transitions that played upon the aesthetic of a typewriter, and an author editing their work. True, it was fairly basic, but it was well executed, and served the film quite well.
Kevin James gives a strong performance throughout, as does Zulay Henao, with his slightly flustered everyman contrasting well with her competent secret agent. The film does a good job of endearing each character to the audience, quickly making us sympathise with them and indeed like them; there’s a character arc, albeit perhaps a thin one, sketched in for them both, which helps give the film an added weight. Obviously, it’ll never win an Oscar, but I do appreciate the fact that True Memoirs has some semblance of character development to it, simply because it helped make the film that bit more enjoyable.
True Memoirs also has quite an engaging plot – it’s well paced, moving quickly when it needs to but equally slowing down at the right points as well, as well as ramping up the tension exactly when needed. For a comedy plot, it’s actually impressively twist-y, with several overlapping subplots that eventually come to a fore, before eventually being resolved together. It’s this that is perhaps one of the film’s greatest weaknesses – the final ending is eminently predictable, and while it’s still satisfying, I can’t help but feel that the film made a mistake by eschewing the somewhat more interesting ending they appeared to hint at. (No spoilers, naturally, but I’m willing to respond in more detail in the comments should anyone ask!)
While I wouldn’t necessarily describe this movie as a straight comedy – indeed, in my recent interview with Kevin James and Zulay Henao, we discussed how it encompassed a little bit of everything – it is still quite a funny film throughout. There’s a lot of physical comedy, obviously, but plenty of one liners and other such jokes – it’s reliably amusing, I’d say, and I think there’s going to be something for everyone within it.
Beyond that, there’s not a lot to say about this movie: it’s basically perfect at doing what it sets out to do. Certainly, if you try to take it seriously, it begins to fall apart a little bit (should we support the interventionist actions undertaken by Kevin James’ character? Did he pay enough heed to the political situation of Venezuela, and should we be pleased with the appointment of the new President at the end of the movie? Is this a fair representation of Venezuelan culture? Does Zulay Henao’s character count as appropriately feminist representation, and what does it say that Kevin James’ character was able to save her despite being less competent?) but it’s unlikely anyone will actually ask those questions unless they’re, well, me. It sets out to be an entertaining movie, and achieves just that.
Ultimately, True Memoirs of an International Assassin is quite a fun and entertaining movie. Arguably, it’s much like Kevin James’ character – while you’re perhaps not expecting much, the movie steps up to the plate and excels, performing admirably in the face of its challengers, and doing its job pretty damn well. True Memoirs sets out to be a great action comedy, and not only does it do just that, it pulls it off with panache.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★