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Margaret Cho: Assassin

(2005) ** 1/2 Unrated
86 min. Regent Releasing. Director: Kerry Asmussen. Cast: Margaret Cho.

During the last election, Margaret Cho toured swing states with her "State of Emergency Tour." Much of that material makes its way into Margaret Cho: Assassin, a filmed performance from May of this year. Fancying herself an ideological assassin for politically frustrating times, "out" liberal Cho tells her Washington D.C. audience why George Bush is the worst president ever and why she's sick of the religious right. Cho makes hay from a number of issues in homosexual politics, awards-show fashion, and a list of celebrities that includes Ziyi Zhang, Jeff Stryker, Martha Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Terry Schiavo.

Assassin is Cho's fourth concert film, and her team obviously has the form down to a science. Though the audience is interviewed pre-show and post-show, no audience cutaways decorate Cho's act; instead, just enough editing and camera movement create the illusion that Cho moves from one spot on stage, though she never does. Cho's comedic science thrives in attack mode and leans on funny voices, particularly that of her Korean mother, who returns in the unpleasant context of a heart attack.

Assassin is probably best enjoyed in a living room. Unlike Cho's high-water-mark I'm the One That I Want, the latest film is soft in the middle and lacks any stories of an epic scope. For an election-year show, Assassin is oddly unfocused and uncomfortably restless. And yet, even on autopilot, Cho proves herself a skilled performer, with an ease for translating attitude into laughs. Whether she's pointing out the resemblance of John Kerry to an Ent (the withering trees from Lord of the Rings) or questioning the wisdom of Ronald Reagan's posthumous American tour, the comedienne remains endearingly naughty.

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