Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 92 minutes
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I have plainly been misled by the crime and suspense novels I read in my youth. All this time, I assumed successful assassins prided themselves on their ability to blend into the crowd, to remain inconspicuous, and to strike silently and with lethal precision. Thankfully, “The Face of the Serpent” has come along to correct these mistakes. I now know that truly successful assassins drive red Porsches and brightly colored motorcycles, that they like to whack their victims in full view of hundreds of people (as in the opening wedding ceremony hit), and sometimes – just sometimes – they fall in love with those they are hired to kill.
The assassin in question is Quinn (Dean Paul), the killer with a heart of gold. We know this because he loves reading poetry and watching children frolic in the park. He also feels intense guilt over the death of his close friend (an occurrence that often drives one into contract killing). Quinn is hired to rub out Tasha (Lana Novac), a Russian immigrant med student, who we are told is working as a drug courier. Quinn accepts the job reluctantly, and starts surveillance on the attractive student.
Medical school must be really demanding of one’s faculties, because Tasha never notices the red 944 following her around town. And when Quinn decides to break into her apartment for more information, he does so while she’s sitting right outside the building. So confident is he in his plan, however, that he produces a mini-cassette recorder and starts reciting details about Tasha’s apartment. This added reinforcement of what we’re already seeing with our own eyes on screen causes the scene to drag interminably.
Predictably, Quinn decides there’s more than meets the eye about Tasha. He resolves not to kill her until he gets to the bottom of the mystery, so he saves her from a rival assassin and puts her up in his apartment. Here she’ll be safe while Quinn delves deeper into who wants Tasha dead and why. Unfortunately, it takes our intrepid sleuth a good 45 minutes to figure out what the audience has known all along: that Tasha isn’t a drug courier but a hooker (with a heart of gold), and that the contract was issued by Judge Branch (Bo Brinkmann), who fears his dalliance with the young lovely could wreck his gubernatorial aspirations.
Jesus people, this is Texas. We have dozens of citizens put away for hiring contract killers in this state, but almost none for paying hush money to prostitutes. It seems difficult to believe that the Judge would risk lethal injection by fragging a hooker who probably would’ve kept her mouth shut for a few semesters’ tuition. It’s win-win.
It’s bad enough that Dean Paul looks like a young Tom Noonan, or that the whole movie comes across like a bad episode of “Hunter” (a grossly redundant _expression if there ever was one), but the unbelievably contrived connection between Quinn and Judge Branch’s main henchman will have you lurching for the exits. Or reaching for your airsick bags, in the unlikely event “The Face of the Serpent” ever gets distributed.
And to the lady who sat next to us at the Worldfest screening: your son (who played the exuberant news tech) was indeed the best actor in the movie, and he had three minutes of screen time.
Posted on October 5, 2004 in Reviews by Pete Vonder Haar
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