MOVIE REVIEW – ‘American Assassin’

Despite decent casting, this spy thriller can't get over lackluster action and tired plot.

Review by J.T. Johnson

DIRECTOR: Michael Cuesta
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Enrique Chediak
WRITER: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
MUSIC: Steven Price

“American Assassin” falls into the same trap that “Atomic Blonde” did earlier in the year. The filmmakers remembered to hire an excellent cast for their little spy thriller, but they forgot to give them a compelling plot. Unlike “Atomic Blonde”, this film also forgot bring anything memorable to the worn out spy thriller.

The movie follows Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) after his girlfriend is killed by unknown terrorists. Mitch begins a downward spiral where he is training himself to take on pretty much every terrorist cell in the world. Thankfully, the CIA notices this before Mitch can get himself killed and they recruit him to a super secret team lead by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).

Under Stan’s direction, Mitch is sent on various operations though he can’t stop taking everything personally and won’t follow orders. Stan, on the other hand, is also hiding something personal as the main man they are after is someone that Stan trained himself. “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch), as he is referred to, soon develops a very familiar plot using the good old fashioned nuclear bomb device.

If there is one thing that I can say is good about this film, it is that the entire cast does a good job with what they are given. O’Brien is a solid lead actor and Keaton is as dependable as ever. Even the usually undependable Kitsch doesn’t manage to screw up in this particular film.

Unfortunately, that’s all I can really say that is good about the movie. The plot is almost interesting when Mitch is on his own revenge mission, but once he is recruited he acts like every other spy you’ve seen in films before. Also, the movie goes to great lengths to establish that one of Mitch’s biggest problems is that he doesn’t follow orders, yet the movie’s ultimate climax happens only because Mitch defies his orders.

I’m also pretty sure that the CIA orders Stan to take Mitch out on missions despite the fact that Mitch is not ready. Then, they all act so surprised when Mitch screws up the mission and once again, doesn’t follow orders. In other words, by the end of this movie, no one really ends up learning anything or growing in any significant way.

In addition to the terrible plot, the action is not very exciting at all. The gun fights, the hand-to-hand combat and a lame attempt at any sort of car chase only stands to remind you that there are better spy thrillers out there in the world. There are absolutely no action sequences in this film that aren’t instantly forgettable by the time you leave the theater.

Do yourself a favor, go watch a James Bond film or a Jason Bourne flick. Hell, watch any of the “Mision: Impossible” films if you must. I guarantee that you’ll have a far better time revisiting those classic spy films before you will find any entertainment in “American Assassin”.

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