American Assassin is a spy thriller directed by Roger Donaldson. Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) is a self-trained vigilante seeking revenge against terrorists after he and his girlfriend are attacked during a vacation in Spain. After being followed by the CIA they offer to train and recruit him into a special black ops unit named Orion. Headed by Stan Hurley (Keaton), a specialist that trains the unit, they must stop a terrorist threat that endangers the world.
I was excited to watch this film because of the trailer, but I got duped. It basically showed the best parts and hid the horrible messy script. American Assassin is based on a series of books that I haven’t read. Just by reading a summary of the character in the books, I got the gist that it was more in the vein of something written by Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum. This film takes the character and just does its own thing. When films borrow stories from books and do their own re-imagining, it almost never goes right. The story is just muddled with a weak premise that is too over the top. Not enough back story is given, and the characters are poorly written.
The fight sequences are well executed and it’s nice to see Dylan O’Brien playing in a more adult role. Now while he did look good in some fight scenes it was hardly believable that he was able to take out guys bigger than him so easily. American Assassin doesn’t spend enough time setting up the characters and instead spends more time cutting back and forth with too many characters giving speeches. Michael Keaton even had problems keeping the movie afloat. He has some great moments, but the dialog that comes out of his mouth is cringe worthy at times. In fact pretty much everyone has bad dialog coming from their mouths.
There are scenes were dialog is either too muddled or the actors are mumbling. I found it hard to hear some of the poorly written scenes. American Assassin tries too hard to be over the top with the change of premise from the book. Instead of something smaller they can find hard to manage they opt for a more serious threat of a nuclear bomb. With the film having a smaller budget they should have focused on the characters being more fleshed out and a threat that is more realistic for Orion to handle. There’s a moment in the movie that displays where the money went for the special effects, and it still wasn’t all that great. So, what you get is a bunch of other set pieces that have really mediocre special effects. All this led to a confusing tone for the film in that at moments it tried to be a smart thriller and then cut back to a generic action movie. The cinematography and editing weren’t anything special. Some rough cuts and scenes that went too long. The shaky cam didn’t help. It usually doesn’t if the fight choreography isn’t great.
Adding 1-part Bourne + 1-part Jack Ryan + 1-part The Recruit and it should equal something way better than this. Unfortunately, the script is bad, pacing is horrible, the set pieces are ordinary and action is kind of dull. American Assassin just feels like a generic copy of other spy thrillers. If for some reason they want to create a sequel its best if they dial back the threat, get a better script writer and create a spy thriller that has tension worthy of watching.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 1 hr 52 min
Director: Michael Cuesta
Screenplay: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar and Taylor Kitsch
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler
Music: Steven Price
Cinematography: Enrique Chediak