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Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch and Jeremy Irons as Alan Rikkin in Assassin’s Creed.Kerry Brown

What draws good actors to bad films? We could ask all the talented performers who wasted away their time and energies in such dubious prospects as Movie 43 and Aloha, or misbegotten ensemble dramas like Bobby and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. They'd probably come up with a uniform answer: the money, stupid. Or, perhaps, repaying a long-held favour.

Both of those excuses likely apply to the stars who lined up for Assassin's Creed – never before have such acting heavyweights been so misused on screen. Leads Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard maybe owe one to director Justin Kurzel, who oversaw the pair's bloody version of Macbeth a year ago. But that still doesn't justify wasting them in this wan video-game adaptation revolving around some Knights Templar nonsense.

Ditto Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson and Ariane Labed, who all help carry the ridiculousness – the plot is essentially about a man experiencing a virtual-reality retelling of his assassin ancestor's exploits, seriously – all the way to the overextended final stretch. I hope they got paid handsomely for the trouble – but that doesn't mean you have to subsidize the effort, too.