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Assassination Tango (2002)

An aging hitman gets a contract to kill a General in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But when his mark becomes unavailable, he becomes involved in Argentinian tango culture.


Robert Duvall


Robert Duvall
1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Duvall ... John J.
Rubén Blades ... Miguel
Kathy Baker ... Maggie
Luciana Pedraza ... Manuela
Julio Oscar Mechoso ... Orlando
James Keane ... Whitey
Frank Gio Frank Gio ... Frankie (as Frankie Gio)
Kate Micheaux ... Jenny
Frank Cassavetes Frank Cassavetes ... Jo Jo
Michael Corrente ... Cop at Newsstand
Raúl Outeda Raúl Outeda ... Tony Manas
Géraldine Rojas Géraldine Rojas ... Pirucha
Renee Victor ... Stella
Richard Marquez Richard Marquez ... Salsa Band Member
Nelson Marquez Nelson Marquez ... Salsa Band Member


John J. is a seasoned hit man sent on a job to Argentina. When the General he's sent to kill delays his return to the country, John passes the time with Manuela, a beautiful dancer who becomes his teacher and guide into Argentina's sensual world of the tango. Spellbound by the rich and mysterious world Manuela has shown him, his idyll is shattered when the reality of why he's there comes crashing down around him. Written by Press kit

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No one is more dangerous than the man who lives two lives.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violence | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This movie is Robert Duvall's tribute to tango, which is why he filmed it in Buenos Aires, Argentina, using many real tango dancers and authentic tango locations. Some of the tango celebrity faces you can spot include: Geraldine Rojas and Javiar Rodriguez (Pirucha, sister of Manuela and her first partner), Pablo Veron (Pirucha's final parter in the closing credits), Jorge Dispari and La Turca, Orlanda Paiva, Maria Nieves, Armando Orzuza, Carlos Copello, Alicia Monti, Los Hermanos Macana (two men performing a dance). The club with the checkerboard floor is Club Sin Rumbo, in the outskirt of the city, but a famous barrio for producing excellent tango dancers. See more »


Cop at Newsstand: How's the club doin' these days?
John J.: Real good although I-I-I'm gettin' a little too much lately.
Cop at Newsstand: [Sheepishly] You know, I'd come by although I don't think Frankie likes me around that much.
John J.: [Reassuringly] Why not come on in? Frankie's all right once you get to know him.
Cop at Newsstand: Yeah?
John J.: Yeah.
Cop at Newsstand: Still dancin'?
John J.: Some. Not like I used to but some. Yeah.
Cop at Newsstand: You look a little more tired than I remember, John... a little worn out... all those late hours you're keeping...
John J.: [Annoyed about the remark] Ah, whatever.
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Referenced in Telma demain (2005) See more »


Soul Car
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User Reviews

impressive performance in an uneven film
29 December 2003 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

In `Assassination Tango,' a film for which he provided both script and direction, Robert Duvall plays an aging professional killer who also happens to be a tango aficionado. Like the gangsters in `The Godfather,' John J. Anderson is able to compartmentalize the morally contradictory elements of his life: he can gun down in cold blood a total stranger, while at the same time lavishing limitless love and affection on his girlfriend and the ten-year old `stepdaughter' whom he worships and adores. When he is sent to Buenos Aires to take out a disreputable retired general, John falls in love with both a lovely young dancer and the style of `genuine' tango dancing to which she introduces him.

`Assassination Tango,' despite the unsavory elements of the story, is a quiet, muted film that is more about this strangely paradoxical character than it is about either assassination or tango. John is a man who has kept his emotions pretty well in check his whole life and now, as he begins to see the end of that life coming, he feels the need to make some kind of meaningful connection with the people around him. What makes John interesting is the way in which Duvall has chosen to portray him. For the most part, John seems totally subdued in his mannerisms and tone of voice, but he often erupts unexpectedly in fits of uncontrolled mania and violence – aimed more at objects like payphones or people who annoy him than at his carefully chosen victims, whom he liquidates with an emotional detachment worthy of his profession. Duvall hits all the right notes in making his character both frighteningly bizarre and strangely sympathetic all at the same time.

As a writer, Duvall does better with dialogue than with the narrative framework as a whole. Particularly effective is John's constantly asking the Argentineans with whom he's conversing to repeat what they have just said. Most writer/directors would not be shrewd enough to add this calculated bit of realism, which seems just right given the bilingual situation he has set up. Unfortunately, Duvall's considerably less successful with the story itself, which often wanders aimlessly, lacks clarity (particularly in the cloak-and-dagger sequences) and suffers from an overall failure to meld the various elements into a compelling whole. The supporting performers are all good, but, ultimately, we are left wondering just what Duvall had in mind when he set about making this film. If his purpose was to show that even coldhearted killers can love their kids and appreciate art and beauty, then that ground was pretty much covered by `The Godfather' movies. Even the tango scenes are generally blasé and uninspiring, forcing us to wonder just what it is about this dance that both intoxicates John and leads one of the women in the film to say that the tango is `life, love, hate,' an encomium that certainly doesn't seem justified by the dance sequences in this film.

`Assassination Tango' deserves to be seen for Duvall's performance and for the uniqueness of both its setting and its main character. Just don't expect to be swept off your feet by the dancing.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Official Sites:

United Artists


USA | Argentina


English | Spanish | German

Release Date:

4 September 2003 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

Assassination Tango See more »

Filming Locations:

Argentina See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$64,474, 30 March 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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