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Sylvester Stallone plays the world's number-one hired killer, fending off lethal competition from Antonio Banderas' younger, more aggressive upstart.


The script for this long, lethargic thriller hopped around the dinner tables of Hollywood for an age, picking up and dropping star names like an expensive tombola of acting talent: Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, even Christian Slater. All came, all went. Eventually, this tale of two assassins - the old timer looking for a way out, the young pretender looking to be numero uno - attracted the not inconsiderably hot properties of old hand Stallone, and new kid on the block Banderas. What they create, under the tutelage of Donner (who knows a thing or two about lethal weapons), sadly hasn't been worth the wait. If Donner was in search of a dark character piece, what he's unearthed is slow, unconvincing and distinctly unamazing.

The plot coils around the two killers and their new target - surveillance geek Moore, whose shady business fencing computer secrets has backfired. Banderas weighs in as the bad guy, Stallone as the hero protecting the girl and himself from his nemesis' volleys of fire as the film crawls from Seattle's pedestrian squares to the Caribbean for its big, lame showdown.

The major problem is that Banderas and Stallone do not convince as the kind of emotionless, hired killers that the film purports to study. While Stallone dresses up in tweeds and ties, as if for a day out at Twickers, Banderas is a rock star: all frilly shirts, footballer's perm and skintight black jeans. And while Stallone wrestles with his soul - standing out like a ball player at a ballet convention - Banderas shouts, sneers, giggles and comes across as just another trigger-happy nutcase.

The action is stilted and infrequent, reduced to indifferent gun play, car chases and one standout explosion when a gas main ignites. Elsewhere it drags, waiting for very little to occur, culminating in a tragically weak conspiracy and twist.