Saturday, October 21, 2017

Movie Review: "American Assassin" (2017)

Director: Michael Cuesta
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

After his fiance is murdered by terrorists, Mitch Rapp dedicates his life to getting revenge. After attempting to infiltrate a terrorist cell on his own, Rapp is picked up by the CIA and is placed in their off the books assassin training program.

An action hero saves the day because he plays by his own rules and doesn't follow orders. We've neeeeeeeeever seen that in a movie before! "American Assassin" is an adaptation of Vince Flynn's novel of the same name, which is part of the Mitch Rapp novel series. Dylan O'Brien plays Mitch Rapp, and this film tells the character's origin story. A short time after Mitch proposes to his girlfriend, terrorists attack the beach where the couple was vacationing and Mitch's wife-to-be is murdered along with many other innocent victims. From that point on, Mitch's life takes a drastic turn as he shifts his focus to getting revenge and killing as many terrorists as possible. He trains MMA, learns to shoot guns, and tries to lie his way into a terrorist cell. The CIA takes notice of his activities, and eventually, they bring him in for a special super secret off the books assassin training. He trains under former Navy Seal Stan Hurley, played by Michael Keaton, and is eventually dispatched on a mission to track down a suspected terrorist who is acquiring weapons-grade uranium.

What we have here is a fairly run of the mill, generic spy revenge thriller. There are many things to like about "American Assassin." It doesn't shy away from or tone down the violent aspects of the story. It is very, very graphic, especially the opening mass shooting sequence and a torture scene later in the film. The acting is solid. Dylan O'Brien manages to play a fairly convincing action hero type, which we were concerned about going into the movie. We weren't sure he would be able to pull it off since we've only ever seen him in "The Maze Runner" movies, but he certainly does a good job. We think he has a bright future in Hollywood if he is given the right roles. Michael Keaton also offers a good performance (as usual) and gets to do his "Michael Keaton" thing. Sanaa Lathan is also given a good meaty part as the overseer of this super secret organization of terrorist killers. She's fierce, commanding, and knows her stuff. The same cannot be said for Taylor Kitsch, however, who plays the movie's antagonist known as only as Ghost. We don't find Kitsch convincing at all, not just as a villain, but as a character. He is way, way, way too whiny for someone who is supposed to be a bad ass villain that may have more in common with our protagonists than he initially lets on. Even his motivation as a character is petty as hell. He willingly joined a secret assassin group which openly admits that if you get captured, nobody will be there to rescue you... and then he gets mad when he gets captured and nobody is there to rescue him. You knew what you were getting into, buddy! They didn't lie to you, quit being a baby!

There are some entertaining action scenes in "American Assassin," but the overall story is very weak, mostly cliche, and pretty poorly written. A lot of the dialogue is super cheesy and the pacing can be a bit uneven. This movie may be fine for action fans who aren't too picky and just want to see terrorists get killed so they can shout "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the credits roll, but if you are looking for a unique movie and/or a really engaging story, you won't find that here.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 33%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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