Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Assassination Tango is a sad reminder that some people get a little squirrelly when they hit their 70s. Robert Duvall can be forgiven for writing and directing an indulgent film about his lovestango and his handsome young girlfriend, Luciana Pedraza. Less excusable is the mess that ensues when Duvall attempts to take these inherently watchable subjects and mesh them with a he’s-the-best-assassin plot, starring, of course, himself. And when a superimposed panther seems to watch longingly as John J. (Duvall) and Manuela (Pedraza) are entwined in the dance of desire, it’s a strong argument that eventually even legends need to be reined in. Assassination Tango starts as it should, with John cuttin’ a rug at a neighborhood dance and charming a game 10-year-old we later learn is the daughter of John’s live-in paramour, Maggie (Kathy Baker). When talk of Jenny’s upcoming big birthday begins, you’ll likely expect that things are about to go south. You have no idea: John, whose work is “a mystery” to Maggie, gets called to Argentina for a couple of days to knock off some baddie. Of course, complications ensue that prevent John from getting back home in time, but it really doesn’t matter: At this point, the Assassination part of the movie largely ends, and the entirely happenstance Tango segment begins when John peeks into a dance class while looking for something else. More irritating than this hardly fluid transition, though, is the character Duvall created for himself: John is hair-trigger argumentative, socially dim, and extremely unfunny, though he frequently ho-ho-hos at other people’s expense, especially when he tells them how stupid they’re beingwhich makes the attraction of instructor Manuela to this ponytailed freak unfathomable. Pedraza’s woodenness, in fact, is admirable as long as you think Manuela is simply brushing John offthough you quickly realize it isn’t intentional. Granted, the dance scenes are lovelyPedraza’s costumes in particular are gorgeousthough they never feel like part of the movie you started out watching. At this stage in his career, Duvall might have earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants, but what makes him think the rest of us want to sit through it? Tricia Olszewski