Probably the most salient question to come out of this movie is – who is this film actually for? American Assassin feels like teen fan-fiction but in a Jason Bourne movie.
The film follows a bunch of attractive twenty-something CIA agents gallivanting around Europe in the pursuit of revenge. However, cutsie is the last word I’d use to describe this brooding and intense spy thriller, that shifts from predictable to crazy to downright boring – all the hallmarks of a family road trip where the car is going in reverse.
I’ll flag the biggest issue of this film right off the bat as it unfurls across the entire movie and detracts from what could have been much cooler and more interesting.
The setup: Dylan O’Brien plays Mitch Rapp, who proposes to his girlfriend while on holiday in Ibiza. She says yes but within minutes a terrorist attack occurs on the beach and she is killed in cold blood. It’s enough to make anyone want justice, even in sun-drenched paradise! The movie then flashes forward 18 months to see Mitch is now a saturnine borderline psychopath whose own personal vendetta has led him to the doorstep of the same terrorist cell he plans to eliminate by himself.
Mitch is then captured by the authorities and we get your run-of-the-mill mentor story, with Michael Keaton training him to be an elite spy, teaching him to control his temper and capricious decision-making processes, in order for him to succeed in their overall mission, which is to turn Mitch into an assassin as part of a program called ‘Orion’.
So the shortfall? Why was the film not about Mitch learning Arabic, getting indoctrinated into the terrorist cell, the CIA watching him beforehand, him training and devolving from loving fiancée to the maniacal violent man we see through most of American Assassin? That would’ve been so much better, watching his descent into madness and obsession rather than your typical action romp.
Taylor Kitsch is the bad guy for some reason, with a stock-standard Bond-esque plot and I can’t help but feel all the leading characters are about 10 years too young. Much as I hate to say it too – Keaton phoned it in. I don’t blame him with a script that is A+ lazy in terms of exposition and character development (and they had four writers – not including the original novelist!)
A point is reached where you stop really caring what happens to anyone, especially as most characters are killed off as soon as they fill their narrative purpose. American Assassin glimpses into ‘the almost good’ realm but is undone by its banal plot and wooden characters, and a totally out-of-the-blue third act. Clearly they most of their budget on the one scene, which is as lame as it is absurd.
Screening at Dendy Cinemas – the home of quality cinema.