American Assassin was Predictably Tedious and Bland [Review]
Directed by: Michael Cuesta
Written by: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Based on American Assassin by Vince Flynn
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Taylor Kitsch
Running time 111 minutes
Release date September 15, 2017
Rated R for Strong Violence, Including Torture, Persuasive Language, and Brief Sexuality/Nudity.
When Cold War veteran Stan Hurley takes CIA black ops recruit Mitch Rapp under his wing, they receive an assignment to investigate a wave of random attacks on both military and civilian targets. After discovering a pattern of violence, Hurley and Rapp join forces with a lethal Turkish agent to stop a mysterious operative who wants to start a global war.
The cardinal sin of any action thriller film is to be uninteresting and monotonous. I would say being unoriginal, but so many action thrillers are completely unoriginal while still being engaging and trilling. In fact, were it not for the blandness of American Assassin I may not have noticed how similar—and by similar I mean exactly the same—it was to countless other films. The tropes became overwhelming as I slowly lost count while I predicted every scene from my semi-comfortable theatre chair.
American Assassin begins with the happy every-man, on what might be one of the happiest days of his life, when the girl he just proposed to is killed and he is wounded in a terrorist attack. Consumed with rage he turns to a lone wolf bent on revenge, but his plans go wrong and the CIA picks him up. Well the CIA likes his style and they sign him up to train with a super gruff ex-navy seal to be a covert assassin because he tests off the charts. Nevertheless, this Mary-sue lone wolf is too independent, he is a loose cannon, good thing he is perfect and exactly what they have been looking for. When rouge Iranian government agents recruit a mercenary called “ghost” to steal and build a nuclear bomb, this elite band of assassins is thrown into action. However, there is one catch, “ghost” is a former member of that same group of assassin that was once left for dead on an assignment, and he is hungry for revenge against his country and his former mentor. I am going to stop there, but there is more, much more in this overtly cliché paint-by numbers film.
I do not intend to paint this as an entirely unwatchable, film, it is simply mediocre in the extreme. I am positive there will be a receptive audience, I would just assume that audience does not invest a great deal of value on film quality or originality. This audience is likely to not be bothered by two dimensional characters, or even laughable stereotypes. They are in it for the explosions, gunplay, and a fetish for killing the bad guys. That’s not to say I think those are the only people that will find some enjoyment in American Assassin, just the core.
In looking for bright spots, or elements of American Assassin that rise above the tripe, I needed look no further than Michael Keaton. I have been a longtime fan of his work, and usually find it entertaining, interesting, and well worth watching. This was no exception to that rule, in fact he so successfully upstaged everyone else that his was the only character I wanted to survive. Keaton did all the heavy lifting, provided what little levity could be found, and was the only character to keep the story from stalling. Were it not for him, American Assassin would be a complete wash, instead it is another entry in the anthology of bad movies happening to good actors.