Set in Brooklyn and Buenos Aires, Assassination Tango is veritably soaked in atmosphere ' the shabby, sleazy atmosphere that Argentina's favorite dance feeds upon. Robert Duvall, who wrote and directed the movie, stars as John Anderson, a killer-for-hire who's been playing house with a nice woman (Kathy Baker) and her cute daughter (Katherine Micheaux Miller). They don't know what he does for a living, which is the way he'd like to keep it. Then duty calls ' a job in South America that's supposed to take only three days but, when complications arise, stretches out to three weeks. Not only that, but Anderson, when he slips into a dance hall one night, becomes enamored of both the tango and a tango dancer, the latter played by Duvall's real-life girlfriend, the 30-year-old Luciana Pedraza.
At certain moments, Assassination Tango seems like a cinematic valentine to Pedraza and Duvall's May-December romance. (A novice actor, Pedraza has trouble holding the screen.) But those moments don't last long, and they're surrounded by a movie that succeeds as both a thriller and a character study. The thriller part is pleasantly low-key, playing second fiddle to the tango's erotic entanglements. And the character study is another nicely drawn portrait ' this time of a lion in winter ' by one of our country's finest actors. Vain to the point of being a hothead, Duvall's Anderson keeps gliding and sliding around the dance floor to avoid admitting to himself that he's past his prime. He may be, but Duvall isn't.