And so the age of Kevin James making movies for streaming services has begun. True Memoirs Of An International Assassin is basically the same as any of the veteran comedian’s previous six big screen releases, only this time the main character is a self-doubting writer who really wants to be a hero instead of a self-doubting teacher who wants to become a fearless fighter, or a self-doubting zookeeper who wants to fight for his animal friends, or a self-doubting mall cop who wants to—you get the idea.
Created exclusively for Netflix, True Memoirs comes from a script by Jeff Morris that spent year’s on the famous Hollywood Black List. The film follows Sam Larson, an aspiring novelist whose publisher decides to promote a collection of assassin stories as a memoir rather than a work of fiction. The book is an immediate hit, but the success soon draws unwanted attention from a foreign drug dealer (Andy Garcia, in a role that further proves he’ll do essentially anything) who kidnaps Larson and forces him to carry out the assassination of a high-ranking government official (played wonderfully by Kim Coates).
True Memoirs is a surprisingly plot-heavy comedy for a Kevin James film. Instead of using an unbelievable premise to set up a series of loosely connected comedic skits, the film plays like an actual movie with drama, thrills, and a somewhat grounded romance. As soon as the assassination plot is hatched Larson’s life is further complicated by the introduction of a tough CIA agent (Zulay Henao) who needs Sam’s help in stopping the drug dealers, as well as a large crime boss who they believe are also connected to the hit. This, all while Sam is unknowingly being tracked by a second pair of CIA agents (Rob Riggle, Leonard Earl Howze) who hope to learn whether or not he really is the person known solely as ‘The Ghost’ from his best-selling book.
Another thing that separates True Memoirs from other Netflix exclusives like The Ridiculous Six and The Do-Over—both of which came from James’ longtime friend and collaborator Adam Sandler—is that it was made by someone who understands how to make a good looking film that fits the world the story is set in. Director Jeff Wadlow, who previously gave us Kick-Ass 2, nails the pacing and action cues in a way Sandler’s recent features have not, and that helps boost the overall entertainment value of the film. Even when the jokes fall flat there is still something to appreciate in the frame.
What I don’t understand about True Memoirs is how someone like Kevin James can stand to tell the same story over and over again. While the action moments are decidedly more graphic than anything James has previously carried out on screen, the rest of this movie plays like the ultimate exercise in typecasting. The slightly overweight older guy who realizes it is never too late to dream routine has already started to bore audiences, so I can only imagine what the man who seems to only be hired to carry out that one experience endlessly through ever-so-slightly different circumstances must feel. I honestly don’t know if I could drag myself out of bed if that were my life, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is a lot to be enjoyed in his performance here. James, as always, gives it his all and finds a way to make us root for him once again.