American Assassin Review

American Assassin - Poster #2

Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series has been popular with book readers for over a decade now. As it is with any best-seller, Hollywood came knocking in order to adapt to the big screen. CBS films bought the rights to the film in 2008 and have been trying to make it ever since. However, is American Assassin the film that fans have been waiting for?

As far as the book readers are concerned, they will get a kick out of seeing Mitch Rapp on-screen for the very first time. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the film is just going to be an average action film.

American Assassin follows Mitch Rapp, a young man hellbent on revenge after a tragedy took the life of his fiancé. While on the pursuit of the terrorists, Deputy Director Irene Kennedy recruits him into joining a CIA black ops program. He is trained by Cold War veteran Stan Hurley and together they discover a new threat that is seemingly always one step ahead of them.

American Assassin - Dylan O'Brien

As a stand alone action film, American Assassin is solid. But as the first movie in a spy franchise, the film isn’t that memorable. The Bourne series has the Treadstone conspiracy, Mission: Impossible has its crazy stunts, and Bond has its villains and gadgets. However, American Assassin is missing that certain something that’ll make us want to come back for more. The story just feels so generic and the characters aren’t interesting at all either. For one thing, the film is full of bland dialogue that ultimately prevents the film from building to a satisfying climax. Not to mention, you can see the film’s revelations unfold from a mile away.

On the positive side, the action isn’t in short supply. Fans of the book series will enjoy seeing Rapp’s intensity on screen. If you’ve seen any of Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films, you’re already aware of the kind of intense action sequences in the film. The only difference is that it’s way bloodier than the Bourne films. Yet the action sequences don’t present anything particularly inventive to the audience.

Much of that is due to Michael Cuesta’s quick pacing of the film. The film goes through these events rather quickly and the next thing you know it’s the climax of the film already. Along the way, audiences will be greeted by the incredible cinematography of Enrique Chediak. He’s able to perfectly captures the sweeping architecture of Rome and London.

American Assassin - Shiva Negar, Michael Keaton, and Dylan O'Brien

As much as the dialogue is bland in the film, the actors do an amazing job salvaging the material. Admittedly, this is the first time I’ve seen Dylan O’Brien on film. I haven’t seen any of the Maze Runner films or MTV’s “Teen Wolf”. Yet O’Brien impresses me with his performance here. Although on the surface, Mitch Rapp seems like a one-dimensional character, O’Brien layers the character through his PTSD-like behavior. He does mostly this through his facial expressions and body language. Then again, the best part of American Assassin is seeing Michael Keaton chew up the scenery. Keaton, who’s had a bit of a renaissance recently, is funny, tough, and a bit menacing.

As far as supporting actors go, they’re a bit uneven. Taylor Kitsch does surprisingly well in the villain role. Unfortunately, he barely has enough screen time to effectively make a lasting impression. I guess the screenwriters took the literal approach when they gave him the code name of “Ghost”. Like Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan is equally good as Irene Kennedy. But like Kitsch, Lathan doesn’t have enough screen time either. Shiva Negar has a good amount of screen time but she’s a bit dull in the film. Sure, she’s tough and competent but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she gave an interesting performance.

Overall, American Assassin doesn’t offer enough high-octane action or a clever thriller to stand out from the others. While fans of the book should be satisfied, it may serve as mild entertainment to nonreaders. If a sequel does get greenlit then it’ll be because of the heroic efforts of Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

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