The Assault, (not to be confused with The Assault), was directed by Jacob Cooney (Tales from the Other Side, Pitching Tents), written by Cooney, Bill Hanstock (Alien Predator, Apocalypse Pompeii), and George Saunders (Harem, Magic Man); and stars Jordan Ladd (Satanic Panic, Nowhere), Nikki Moore (Kiss the Abyss, Deadly Matrimony), Tom Sizemore (Atomica, Project Skyquake), Tom DeNucci (Damon’s Revenge, Black Wake), Thyme Lewis (Days of Our Lives, Red Handed) and Kevin Nash (Lockdown, The Punisher). It’s about two friends that get fed up with their personal lives and decide to go on a crime spree, only for it to be complicated by a detective with a connection to one of the duo.
The Plot: Perfunctory is the name of the game here. The Assault’s writers take from the well of familiar plot elements in order to construct a story that has some similarities to Thelma & Louise but doesn’t have any legs of its own to stand on beyond the aforementioned direct connection to an investigator.
Right after the robbery of a convenience store co-owned by Seth (DeNucci), his battered wife Lindsay (Ladd) sits in waiting for her partner in crime to show up for the next go around. Unfortunately for them, Detective Broza (Sizemore) is on the case, accidentally giving a ride to stripper Nicole (Moore), the other culprit. This is all thrown at the wall with little regard for setup as aside from a few seconds of the robbery, there’s little to establish a timeline or world that this is taking place in.
With some assistance from officer Mack (Lewis), Broza finds out that Seth has a shipment of cash coming in later on during the week, which sends the attention of the police force that way as they lie in wait for something to happen. The Assault is one of those movies where a lot is happening, but at the same time, little of substance is shown on screen as it bounces between characters as they go about their routine with marginal progression as characters like Cisco (Nash) are introduced as having something to do with the main thread, only to be disregarded soon after.
Eventually, the women get into their groove and continue their spree around the halfway mark where the movie itself finds some clarity in its pedestrian narrative. Nothing is particularly interesting or original, and it’s shaky at first, but at least it’s competent after that.
The Characters: Some potentially arresting (pun intended) dynamics are approached in The Assault’s script, but Cooney, Hanstock and Saunders needed to do some shuffling in the order of events to make them truly compelling. Because of the way the final product came out, the players are just archetypes without any depth.
Lindsay’s history doesn’t come across much on screen, as aside from a brief conversation at the beginning of the movie that has Seth spout some slimy words about never hitting her again if she behaves like he wants, we never see her life as it is when she’s not on a mission to get quick cash and leave the town. Not helping the cause is her apprehension about some segments of the operation, making the whole ordeal come across as halfhearted and weakly justified.
Nicole seems to be present just to make a duo out of the criminals, as she gets nothing in the way of characterization. She doesn’t have a heart of gold, as she herself mentions, but The Assault gives no reason to sympathize with her in the form of an endgame after the money is collected. Her communication with Broza is more befuddling since him knowing who she is only puts her on the radar, and no emotional attachment is shown on her end.
Broza himself is a generic cop, but Sizemore wouldn’t let you know that as he tries to create a personality of an unsure officer whose recent transfer from New York may have left him with some troubles. No backstory accompanies the character, but it seems like the actor playing him made one up, just for his own sake; if it were translated to the movie, something may have come of it.
Blank slates make up the roster here, as motivations are largely absent, as are personalities and performances from the leading ladies. Sizemore is trying to wring something out of nothing and DeNucci makes for a good sleazebag, but the leads don’t carry their end.
The Crime: With a laundry list of tropes standing in for story and character, it’s no surprise that Cooney’s crime scenes are empty calories that don’t do much filling. Boneheaded admissions occasionally pop up from Lindsay and Nicole that only raise questions in what should be a simple, derivative underbelly narrative.
A tell, not show approach leads the movie in, which fails to let the audience in on the M. O. in play; Broza and Mack show up to a burnt-out car with money in the back seat, presumably from the women behind the robbery, but there’s little indication as to why either the car or the cash were ditched in the first place since the goal was to score $1.8 million and hit the road.
Procedural facets are somewhat accounted for, as in the prior scenes of the wrecked car and Broza’s questioning of the strip club’s employees but aren’t much of a factor since The Assault spends most of its scenes that involve Broza watching him as he goes out with Nicole. The flip side is equally neglected since Nicole only ever needed to eavesdrop to get a handle on where the cops are in piecing together the puzzle since they frequent a diner and discuss the minor clues they’ve obtained throughout the runtime.
Robbery scenes are usually a shoo-in for entertainment, and such is the case in The Assault. Cooney makes the sequences in which the main characters hold up people for currency decently watchable, though entirely generic as they go through the motions of low-wattage heists; with the receivers getting slapped around, one reaching behind their back, and an eventual hostage situation. It’s all mediocre when it’s not plainly bad.
The Technics: Indie productions take a lot of work, even the bad ones. 45(!!!!) producers came together to finance The Assault, which shows in the look of the movie, but the blandness probably disappointed them in the end.
Crane shots and dolly tracks all cost money, which clearly needed to be scrounged to get the picture off the ground, meaning that Cooney’s directorial options were limited. Cinematographically the movie came out just fine, with a passably deep look to the environments without any hiccups; sound design fared less well though, as stock sound effects litter the few action scenes and chases, and weird mixing that sometimes causes these sound bites to overlap.
Pacing is fine, surprisingly so considering the incredibly short runtime of 72 minutes, even if the movie’s efforts to start in its second act and force in a first before the story truly kicks off do jostle the production around. It may have been a lack of funds, time, or even effort, but this does irreparable damage to the movie, which would’ve been more investing if any pretenses were had.
It’s not an awful movie but make no mistake – The Assault is a weak movie that only recycles the same tropes everyone has seen dozens of times before with some competence – and not a thing else.
The Assault is available on DVD and Digital platforms from Lionsgate. And if you want more films like it, FilmTagger has a few suggestions.