Film Review: American Assassin (2017)

2017 in Cinema:

American Assassin, 2017

Directed by: Michael Cuesta

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Taylor Kitsch


American Assassin is an American action thriller about a young CIA black ops recruit, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) who’s helping a Cold War veteran, Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, Spiderman: Homecoming) fend off a planned nuclear attack. One thing that initially stands out about this film is its age rating; in Britain it is an 18, where most action thrillers hover between a 12 and a 15 classification, so you know its violence will be more gruesome than most. This is evident in torture scenes and the way the victims are shot; the bullets ripping into their bodies look horrific and borderline real.

However its gore and violence aside, American Assassin isn’t a very well put together film: firstly, we encounter Mitch on a beach as he proposes to his girlfriend, then a terrorist attack kills many of the beach’s inhabitants, including Mitch’s girlfriend. We then cut to eighteen months later where Mitch has caught up with the extremists and plans to kill them before the CIA recuse him and kill the terrorists first. This angers Mitch, who wanted nothing more than to kill his girlfriend’s killer, and then he’s recruited to the CIA black ops training. This skipping over eighteen months, to me, missed a massive opportunity.

Mitch’s character is very bland throughout the film; with his only characteristic being his unpredictability and a hatred for wrongdoers. There’s villain of the piece, being former CIA recruit Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), but it could have been so easy to add the terrorist to the mix. Have two villains, or have Ghost be working with him coincidentally; yeah it’s not very clever and very convenient to a plot, but it allows Mitch to overcome his grief while working a job, and it allows for his unpredictability and his recklessness, and it allows Mitch and Stan to have a back-and-forth argument based on Mitch’s character, and by the end he can be satisfied he’s avenged his girlfriend. But none of this happened, and instead we had a bland hero who was miraculously a brilliant fighter with a brilliant shot (yeah we had a montage of him training to avenge his girlfriend at the start but still) and he transfers seamlessly into the black ops recruitment. They had a little bit of the beach attack by having a fake version of the killer in a recruitment programme, but after that she and he were out of the film.

The best character development came in Keaton’s Stan, who learned from a previous mistake (not saving Ghost when he was once in trouble) and saved Mitch during a scene, and it seems strange they managed to give Stan this evolution and learning but Mitch remains the same throughout, and the worst moment of his life is quickly glossed over and largely forgotten about.

I know this review has focused largely on their characters, but there’s not much else to talk about. The plot is very basic: a lad recruited into a training programme (seen that before), he excels over others who deserve to be there (seen that before), the villain is a former good-guy turned villain (seen that before), his plan is to blow up something with a nuclear missile (seen that before) and it goes down to the wire before the heroes save the day (seen that before). So with a film that is almost a copy and paste of what we’ve seen before it relies on its characters, and this fails in that category, too.

American Assassin is an okay film, which will keep you watching because it’s an action thriller, but it won’t have you incredibly invested because it doesn’t give you too much to be invested in. The characters are bland and the plot is copy and pasted from so many others.


Plot: * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ½

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