TL;DR – Bland the movie
Score – 1.5 out of 5 stars
Well, I don’t know what I was expecting with American Assassin, maybe some excitement, maybe some competent action sequences, maybe an interesting character study, maybe even an interesting look at America’s involvement in global terrorism. Of all the things I was expecting, the last thing was a bland paint by numbers snooze fest, well not paint by numbers because that implies that there was some colour in there somewhere. So yer, let’s dive into our review of American Assassin a dull film if ever I saw one.
So to set the scene, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega) were holidaying on the Spanish coast when Rapp decides to propose. It is a beautiful moment and Rapp decides to get some drinks to celebrate, but while he is off getting them, Islamic Jihadists attack the beach killing the tourists and killing Katrina in front of the wounded Rapp. Well 18 months later and Rapp has been training, and is apparently completely fluent in Arabic, Mixed Martial Arts, and multiple assault weapons, and he is endeavouring to insert himself into the organisation that launched the attack on the beach so that he could take it out from the inside. But as he is a being an obvious fool, the CIA is monitoring him, and after taking out the cell they … and stop me if you have heard this one before … invite him to train in a black ops team that exists to take out the people the government couldn’t do officially. This is where he meets Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) his gruff take no nonsense mentor and Victor (Scott Adkins) his potential rival and … well, stuff happens, there a nuke and stuff, but like it doesn’t really matter, look there will likely be spoilers going forward after this point, not that you should really care given how predictable it all was.
So let’s start breaking down where the film went wrong, and sorry this is quite a list. First off everything felt staged and as such there was no authenticity to it. For example, take the opening massacre, which is already problematic from the start because it is based off a real-world event. The whole sequence is purpose driven to create an emotionally devastating moment, and look I can get teary at the drop of a hat, but the manipulations are so clear it evokes nothing. Also, did you know you could get into a Jihad organisations by being good at Koran trivia? It was news for me. Indeed everything up to Rapp joining the black ops unit feels forced and it does not stop there.
When it comes to the characters well there is literally nothing much to talk about because no one gets any real characterisation or an arc during the film. Rapp is an angry man and clearly not fit for field work, but you can bet he’ll be sent out for no other reason than plot. Hurley is that stock standard gruff military trainer/ father figure with a past … gasp. Honestly, it felt like Michael Keaton spent most of this film being Michael Keaton just looks bored during most of the film, and the other half chewing the scenery to give himself something to do. After seeing Michael Keaton pull off a truly complex and fascinating character in Spider-Man: Homecoming earlier this year it is quite jarring to see him just phone it in here. As well as wasting the time of Michael Keaton, it also wastes the time of Scott Adkins who is there for one fight scene and then gets knifed the moment he goes out into the field, can someone please give him a decent role in a movie, please. On top of this, all the women in American Assassin exist for only two reasons, to be annoying, or to be shot, or sometimes both. Take Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) there is no consistency to her character what so ever. For the whole movie she is screw you, Hurley, Rapp is going in the field I like his initiative, but the second the story needed her to be an obstacle, they do a 180 degree flip on her character for no reason. Oh and our big bad, well he’s got some vague motivation, but they don’t show in any way what would have motivated him to become a suicide bomber, oh and for someone called Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) he sure does like to park his trucks in clear view of very obvious CTV cameras. Add to this some truly uninspiring dialogue like ‘looks like a dear, kills like a lion’ well then you have all the trappings of a dull film.
As far as the story goes, well it goes just as far as you would expect, there will be no plot twists that you won’t see coming a mile away, and the ones which are not telegraphed feel more than a little meh. The characters always feel out of place no matter where they are, even when they are meant to be blending in. As well as this, you better believe every little detail is only there because they reference it in the final act. The action is mostly bland, when it is there, which is sparing throughout the film, there is only one action scene that had me partially interested and that was when they were in a boat hopping over the waves, so the interior of the boat was always kicking up underneath them as they fought. The music is the bare minimum they needed, and writing here only a couple of hours later I could not on my life tell you anything else about to other than I called it bland in my notes. Also, could someone please tell filmmakers how the hell nuclear weapons work, I mean come on.
In the end, I would rather go see mother! again than sit through this mess, and I hated mother!, but at least it was trying something new. This is a bland film that takes all the hallmarks of better films like John Wick and Bourne, but adds nothing new to the genre. Honestly, don’t waste your time with this one.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of American Assassin
Directed by – Michael Cuesta
Written by – Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz
Based on – American Assassin by Vince Flynn
Music by – Steven Price
Cinematography by – Enrique Chediak
Edited by – Conrad Buff IV
Starring – Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Taylor Kitsch, David Suchet, Navid Negahban, Scott Adkins & Charlotte Vega
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 18; United States: R