Assassination Tango

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Assassination Tango
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Duvall
Produced by Rob Carliner
Robert Duvall
Screenplay by Robert Duvall
Starring Robert Duvall
Rubén Blades
Kathy Baker
Luciana Pedraza
Music by Luis Enríquez Bacalov
Cinematography Félix Monti
Edited by Stephen Mack
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
United Artists
Release date
  • September 11, 2002 (2002-09-11) (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • March 28, 2003 (2003-03-28)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Assassination Tango is a 2002 American crime thriller film written, produced, directed by, and starring Robert Duvall. Other actors include Rubén Blades, Kathy Baker and Duvall's Argentine wife, Luciana Pedraza.[1] Francis Ford Coppola was one of the executive producers.

The film centers on the life of a hitman who travels to Argentina for a job, as well as his discovery of Argentine tango and his relationship with a woman living there. The film is considered a "labour of love" of Duvall, a self-confessed tango addict.[2] Most of the film was shot in Buenos Aires,[3] and some scenes at the beginning and end of the story were filmed in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Anderson (Duvall) is a successful American hitman whose employer sends him to do a job in Argentina. His contacts inform him that his target is a former general who took part in Argentina's last military dictatorship. Following a meeting with one of the co-conspirators, Anderson hears music and is shown a tango studio. He is immediately entranced by the dancing and wants to learn more about it, which leads to his meeting with Manuela, a local tango dancer and instructor.

Things are not as easy as they seem. Anderson learns that the assassination job will be delayed, due to his target sustaining an injury in a riding accident. A paranoid Anderson simultaneously rents a room in two different hotels. From the safety but close proximity of one hotel room, he witnesses police converge on the other hotel. Anderson will fulfill his obligation to do the job despite the obvious reality that there is a leak. In the meantime, Anderson begins to immerse himself in the world of the tango, while balancing his plans to carry out the hit. The conspirator Miguel (Rueben Blades) is harshly interrogated by Buenos Aires police. Miguel can eventually breathe a sigh of relief when his conspirator within the Argentinian federal authorities shows up. Anderson eventually makes it out of Argentina safely.


The character of Jo-Jo is a small supporting role played by Frank Cassavetes (no relation to the late director John Cassavetes).


Critical response[edit]

The film received a mixed reception, and currently has a 48% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics criticized its slow pace and saw the film as nothing but personal self-indulgence from Duvall.[4][5] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film "vanity project" and said that it's "hard to see what Duvall thinks is so interesting about the hit man, aside from the fact that he's playing him".[5] Michael Luongo of Frommer's stated that the film was slow-paced, but "highlights his [Duvall's] obsession with Argentina and the tango, letting the city [Buenos Aires] serve as the backdrop".[1] Roger Ebert awarded the film three stars out four and although he said that the film is "not quite successful", he considered it a "fascinating effort".[6] However, he said that Assassination Tango is "not entirely about crime or dance, and that will be a problem for some audiences, although the little girl skipping in the playground scene really steals the show".[7] Amy K. Kaminsky said that the film was "utterly personal", in that the "violence of the junta seems to be overshadowed by individual desire". She stated that the film masked "U.S. involvement in setting up dictatorships, teaching torture techniques, and underwriting state violence".[8]


  1. ^ a b Luongo, Michael (5 July 2011). Frommer's Buenos Aires. John Wiley & Sons. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-118-11548-0. 
  2. ^ Paz, Alberto; Hart, Valorie (2008). Gotta Tango. Human Kinetics. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-7360-5630-4. 
  3. ^ Bernhardson, Wayne (11 January 2011). Moon Buenos Aires. Avalon Travel. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-59880-884-1. 
  4. ^ "Malos aires". Sacramento News Review. 17 April 2003. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Duvall's gravity weighs on 'Tango' / Actor's vanity project falls as flat as his ponytail". San Francisco Chronicle. 4 April 2003. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 November 2005). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2006. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-7407-5538-5. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 November 2004). Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2005. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 34. 
  8. ^ Kaminsky, Amy K. (2008). Argentina: Stories for a Nation. University of Minnesota Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-8166-4948-8. 

External links[edit]