Since the late 80s, when he was cast as The Beast in a television adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, Ron Perlman has solidified himself as just that, a beast of an actor. Perlman is a consistently strong presence known for the stature and swagger he exudes in his roles. So much so that it can be easy to overlook the amount of heart and humor he can bring to a feature, but with his latest effort, Asher, Perlman brings the feels to the forefront.
The film introduces us to the titular aging hitman Asher (Ron Perlman) who has fallen into a life of routine complete with contract killing in the afternoon and a glass of wine just before bed. When his path collides with Sophie’s (Famke Janssen) on a hit gone wrong, he sees a way to the life he left behind years previously. But his old lifestyle won’t go down quietly, forcing Asher to fight for the right to start anew.
If you feel like you’ve read that plot synopsis before it’s because you almost certainly have. One of Asher’s most glaring issues is, ironic enough, the routine nature of its plot structure. First-time feature writer Jay Zaretsky is taking few chances in his initial go around. The killer with a heart of gold, the love interest who knows she should stay away, and add in a turf war for turmoil – it’s all here.
Although, Zaretsky does sprinkle in glimmers of promise throughout the screenplay. Janssen’s Sophie is given agency outside of her Asher-centric interactions with the introduction of her dementia-addled mother. This allows the film to contrast difficult topics such as euthanasia and its accompanying emotions with the emotionless killings of a hitman. Yet this idea is timidly explored, highlighting that these grand ideas are out of the scope of this film.
Thankfully, Perlman takes these glimmers and polishes them until they outshine the more mundane aspects of the film. The actor takes it upon himself to present a character full of history. The viewer can envision the difficult and empty life Asher has endured thanks to the longing ever present in Perlman’s expression. The amount of emotion conveyed in Perlman’s lethargic sighs as he goes about his day wash over you and remain until the film ends. You easily understand why Asher and Sophie leave such a strong impression on each other despite their short time together.
Janssen is an excellent companion to Perlman. She is the graceful counterpart to the lumbering Asher but manages to match him in her forlorn presentation. These two weathered individuals pull you into their plight to such an extent that when the plot calls for a revisit to the seedy underbelly of Asher’s occupation you’ll be calling for a return of the film’s more exciting storyline.
From the outside, Asher doesn’t look like much. It offers itself up as a commonplace story showcasing a couple familiar faces in the hope you’ll give it a passing glance. Beneath that uninspiring exterior though is a passionate core that will win you over if you give it a chance.