REVIEW — “American Assassin”
American Assassin begins with an impressively unsettling and brutal opening sequence; hitting a high note that the rest of the film never once lives up to. The film follows Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) who becomes a CIA black opps recruit after a personal tragedy occurs in the midst of a terrorist attack. Veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) is his instructor and leads him on a mission to solve a string of attacks on military and civilian targets led by Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) before a war begins in the Middle East. Does this sound like every other Bourne-esque movie that you’ve seen from this century? That’s because this film is pretty much is only good for dumber, sloppier seconds that aren’t nearly as satisfying or entertaining when it comes to showing its tropes that you’ve seen a million times in other better films.
The best compliment that I can give the film is that the actors involved genuinely do solid jobs and seem to have fun in their roles, opposed to seemingly sleepwalking like you see in other films like this one. Dylan O’Brien is a solid lead who gets you emotionally hooked with his character due to the good ol’ tragedy in the opening sequence – while his character is unfortunately a bit paper thin on any surface underneath him suffering at the hand of terrorism, O’Brien himself is genuinely committed to the role and sells the action sequences well. Michael Keaton is easily the best aspect of this film, as he chews up all of the scenes he’s in and completely owns his role as the grumpy and grizzled instructor who’s seen so many other recruits like Mitch and frowns upon their optimism to make change. This film isn’t great by a longshot, but it could’ve been a lot worse with actors with any less of skill as these guys or giving the type of commitment that I’m not entirely sure that a film of this quality called for.
As I said, the cold opening to this film surprised me and had me gripped from the get-go. The following 10-15 minutes, while a bit absurd at points, are also fairly compelling when it comes to showing how Mitch comes into contact with the CIA and eventually becomes a recruit that has attention from higher-up agents. The moment that the film goes down the path of exploring it’s central storyline, it only progressively goes further and further down hill. Towards the middle of the film, it hits a point where it has thrown so many tired spy/political thriller cliches and gets convoluted in the web of them that I was simply exhausted by trying to take it all seriously. It feels like American Assassin has several messages that it’s trying to convey about the state of national security but none of them pan out to anything interesting or mildly insightful.
The film reaches its lowest levels in the third act, when it tries to accomplish the kind of spectacle that the film’s budget is just not made for. On top of using laughably bad CGI and a set piece that feels obnoxiously unnecessary to the plot it was building towards, the third act features truly awful writing and an ending that is so unsatisfying and painfully generic to every other film of its kind. I feel like this review is getting repetitive, as it seems all I can say talk about is how tired and boring it is, but that’s the thing – that’s all this film is: boring and repetitive. American Assassin isn’t necessarily a terrible movie, but it’s so painfully generic and inexcusably recycled to the point of where I’m almost beginning to think that’s a worse thing to be nowadays. It’s a movie that is destined to be played on TNT at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon until it fades into obscurity. 2/5.