Traumatic events affect people differently. Some avoid anything that resembles that moment or triggers memories of it. Others are impacted so deeply that they must take action. American Assassin, based on the Vince Flynn books, features Dylan O’Brien (Maze Runner) as Mitch Rapp who wants to avenge the killing of his girlfriend in a terrorist attack. Upon his attempt to track down the men responsible, he is recruited by the CIA to help them track down the perpetrator of several attacks on civilian and military targets.
The film is ambitious in its approach to entering the realm of spy thrillers. There is no real depth to the film or moments that make the audience truly invested in the characters onscreen. At times, the story feels rushed, repetitive, and confusing. The actions scenes, however, are engrossing and give the audience the sense of chaos that would be felt if they were a part of it. The most interesting aspect of the film is not the story, but Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Stan Hurley, who leads Rapp on their international quest to find a rogue agent and prevent a nuclear detonation. Keaton’s character seems to be a combination of some of his more iconic roles allowing for much more depth, connection to be made between him and the other characters, despite the lack of chemistry between them collectively.
American Assassin is a good action film for those looking for an escape in the theaters, but for those looking for something that will rival any of the Bourne films, or the James Bond series, they are going to be sorely disappointed.
Second Review by Joseph K. Saulnier
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien, The Maze Runner, Teen Wolf) asks his girlfriend to marry him, when on the way back with celebratory drinks the shooting begins. Armed men moving through the crowd gunning people down, even his own fiancé right in front of his eyes. Rapp survives that day, only to make it his personal mission to take out every terrorist in the world. He trained and made ready, which caught the eye of the US Government who recruits him into an elite group of highly trained individuals under the tutelage of Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Founder). When nuclear materials go missing in the middle east, Hurley, Rapp and the rest of the team are called into action.
I have to say, I enjoyed the movie. Was it great? No. It was good, but there were things that just irked me about the film. First was that the film felt like it was trying to rush too much past Rapp’s first experience and progression through training with the secret elite group. There was some good material here, and so much more that could have been had. Second, I almost feel that the film doubted the intelligence of the movie goers. One example, spoiler free, is the characters say they’re in Rome. They talk about being in Rome. They mention the location of a housing project is somewhere just outside of Rome. Then, they cut to the housing project, and in the bottom left hand corner of the screen comes the location text we are so familiar with, but it reads: “[random housing project name], Near Rome.” Why couldn’t they just put the name of the city in which this project resides? This film was smart (though it could have been smarter) in so many ways, so why treat your audience like they’re two?
The last thing that was hard to get past was that the movie didn’t know what it wanted to be. Or at least it went through a metamorphosis and came the other end a different type of movie. The first, oh 90% of the film had a really cool, spy meets action vibe going for it. Think like Spy Games (that great movie with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt) meets Jason Bourne. A really chill and subdued aura, if you will, but nicely blended with some great action scenes that weren’t the stiff recreations some movies still show today. The fighting felt like it could have been real, especially with Rapp being a person who only trained for this stuff for 18 months and while he exceled in many areas, he was still very unrefined. And that led to his charm, once you get past the exaggerated New England accent. Then, right toward the end, you could see where most of the budget was spent on this movie. They threw in this big, effects driven scene that seemed very out of place given the tone of the rest of the movie. Fellow Skewed & Reviewer Josh Aja saw this with me, and we agreed on this part. It just didn’t feel right, despite actually a fairly good scene.
But overall, I liked the film. The score was good, the acting was good as well. The action scenes felt real, and you were rooting for Rapp the whole time. I wouldn’t recommend the theater though, unless you’ve made your way through the bigger films out right now. The final scene is great on the big screen, but the rest of the film doesn’t necessitate a big screen.
3.5 stars out of 5