Even killing machines need love, and this is the theme behind Ben Medina’s ECCO. OK, admittedly the theme is not as cynical as it sounds. I come from that school that says that human beings were created to love and need love. Assassins are no different.
Michael (Lathrop Walker) was born and bred to be a deadly contract killer. He was the best of his breed. Trained to kill, trained to survive, and brainwashed to live this solitary life. ECCO opens on two parallel paths of Michael’s life. One path is a flashback from years ago. Michael assassinates a team of sketchy executives on the verge of closing a deal with global ramifications. Michael is an exceptional assassin, and their deaths look like a jet plane accident.
This being his last job, he returns home to his newly minted girlfriend Aubrey (Helena Grace Donald). All he needs to do is collect his bounty, and they can live the rest of their lives together unencumbered by the past. That doesn’t go well as Aubrey is fridged and Michael is sent back for reprogramming.
“…the best of his breed. Trained to kill, trained to survive, and brainwashed to live this solitary life.”
The other path shows Michael today. He’s living a life of anonymity on a fishing boat. After a long tour, he returns to his pregnant wife Abby (Tabitha Bastien), and after a long-awaited night together, Michael receives a mysterious phone call telling him, “they” know where he is. Now Michael is on the run, and he has to get Abby and their unborn child to safety. The only way for Michael to get his life back is to figure out his hazy past, then find and stop those who are after him.
ECCO is an action film, but not the kind you think it is. Unlike say, John Wick, it’s not fast-pace wall-to-wall action. It’s a slow and measured film that takes us into the mind of brainwashed killers. On one path are his many memories of Aubrey followed by the nightmares of her death. On the other is Abby, their child, and a life that could happen. As we journey down both paths, the mystery and secret of Michael’s past are slowly unveiled.
First, there’s finding the mysterious man. Along the way, he runs into an occasional set of thugs that he quickly murders in front of Abby. Then there’s the revelation of what Michael went through to become the killing machine and its pretty dark. Look, you can’t practice killing people unless you actually kill people. While the action scenes are far and few between, they are well-choreographed and visually artistic in composition.
“…uses imagery heavily to get you to feel and empathize…”
ECCO is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Patience is needed. The longer you stay with ECCO the better the payoff is at the end. Story takes precedence over action. Directly Medina uses imagery heavily to get you to feel and empathize with Michael. You feel his loss. You feel his love. You feel his desperate grasp for a normal. Lastly, there is a mystery to unfold. Who is above Michael pulling his strings? How did he get into this position in the first place?
I’m on the fence when it comes to ECCO, and primarily it’s pacing. At two hours, it moves slowly and intentionally so. That’s a long time to engage an audience. The story is unique, and the end revelations are clever but fall short of mind-blowing (which is the bar). Lathrop Walker carries the film from beginning to end. He’s exciting and likable. He excels at his stunt work and provides the empathy we need for his character to carry us to the finish line.