The two women who smeared a nerve agent in the face of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and caused his death, have left a slight pop cultural footprint in the United States. This is particularly so because one of them wore a shirt that said “LOL” during the act. Everyone who is meme-able deserves at least one movie.
Enter “Assassins,” a documentary by filmmaker Ryan White (“Ask Dr. Ruth”) that traces with impressive clarity the path that led Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong to Kuala Lumpur International Airport that morning in February 2017, more convincingly In case they had no idea they were involved in an international assassination attempt.
Both women – the Indonesian Siti and the Vietnamese Huong – were released from prison last year. Huong pleaded guilty to causing assault. White’s film suggests that the Malaysian judicial system had treated them as scapegoats. Relying on the defense attorneys and ample video evidence, the film claims that Siti and Huong were independently recruited as actresses for prank videos. A routine that their bosses taught them? Rub baby lotion on a stranger.
As a filmmaker, “Assassins” is not new: It is based on the usual paranoid documentary playbook and invites the audience to think about surveillance material and to lean on a sweaty score by Blake Neely. Its main virtues are a wild story and a secret sense of indignation. It is argued that these so-called assassins became political peasants and had to be tried without witnesses to support their defense.
Not rated. In Vietnamese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, English and Malay with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. In theaters. Please read the Policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching films in theaters.