Fast-forward to roughly six months from now. You and your buddy/spouse/significant other are standing in line at the Redbox kiosk, free rental code in hand. You want action and intrigue, and right in front of you there it is in the form of “American Assassin.”
You turn to your companion and ask if they've ever seen it. “No,” they respond. “But my dad loves it.” But the truth of the matter is, if you were to ask that dad what he thought of the movie, he'd probably shrug as say, “I haven't seen it, but my dad loved it.” This pattern would continue and you'd likely never find out just who loves the movie.
Let me start out by saying one of the most un-Minnesotan things I can think of … whether Vince Flynn (the author of the book the film is based on) was one of us or not, I really didn't like much, if anything, about “American Assassin.”
Dylan O'Brien as Mitch Rapp in “American Assassin.” (Photo by Christian Black. Photo courtesy of CBS Films and Lionsgate)
The film follows its main protagonist, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien), a lone vigilante seeking revenge for the death of girlfriend, who was killed in a terrorist attack. After exhaustive searching and training, Rapp finds the man responsible for ruining his life only to have him snatched away from his grasps at the last second.
Impressed by Rapp's tenacity and ability, CIA honcho Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) recruits Rapp to be part of a very elite, and very secret anti-terrorism unit, where he will train with one of the best – Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).
As the newly-formed team, which also includes undercover agent Annika (Shiva Negar), searches the globe for stolen weapons grade plutonium, they must also contend with the mysterious “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch) a man from Kennedy and Hurley's past that will stop at nothing to thwart their heroic efforts.
Annika (Shiva Negar), Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a Turkish operative (Nej Adamson), and Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) hunt for clues to track down an elusive terrorist in “American Assassin.” (Photo by Christian Black. Photo courtesy of CBS Films and Lionsgate)
The best word I can think of to describe “American Assassin” is sloppy.
The story hops around aimlessly, never really developing characters or motivations, instead opting to replace story with more and more ridiculous (and unnecessary) action sequences. You're never really given the opportunity to like (or dislike) any of the characters. They're just kind of there and it doesn't really seem to matter why, so long as they can run, jump, punch, and kick.
Beyond that, the CGI is laughably bad and the acting, including the usually-solid Keaton, is laughably bad. Given this appears to be the setup for a much longer film series, I'm hoping that's the product of one messy story rather than a sign of things to come.
Being a big fan of the modern spy thriller – Jack Ryan, Jason Bourne (but not Aaron Cross), etc. – I wanted to like this movie and had high hopes for it. Unfortunately, so far over-the-top action sequences made it for “xXx” than “Bond.”
I went in with the idea of little more than escapist fun. Sadly, the holes in this movie made the fun unreachable.
There is an audience for this movie, and any subsequent sequels, and at the end of the day it's harmless enough. It's just not very good. Essentially, it's the kind of movie that people that don't watch a lot of movies will love and everybody else will be lukewarm (at best) on.
★1/2 of ★★★★★