film reel image

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

American Assassin 2017 * * Stars

Director: Michael Cuesta
American AssassinYear: 2017
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan

Punches are thrown, bullets are unloaded, a murky plot conforms, and bloodletting is a mainstay in 2017's American Assassin (my latest review).

The story of "Assassin" chronicles Mitch Rapp (played by Dylan O'Brien). After Mitch loses his parents and his girlfriend gets murdered on a beach in Ibiza, Spain, he decides to go after the maligned terrorists who committed said murder. Rapp first goes out on his own to acquire vengeance until he is swallowed up by U.S. Special Forces. They eventually recruit him and he gets trained by an icy black ops dude in Stan Hurley (played by Michael Keaton).

Now with American Assassin, we've seen this all before. The techno thriller, the slick thriller, the CIA thriller, the locale thriller. "Assassin" has these attributes and has them with bells on. You watch this film hoping that it's not routine. In the end though, American Assassin is The Gunman, The November Man, The Bourne Identity, Paranoia, The Recruit, and 3 Days to Kill all thrown into a high-powered blender.

Sure there's a brisk pace to all of it, the violence invariably spills onto the screen, and a cool nuclear explosion straight out of Deep Impact arises. But "Assassin" has action sequences that have fits and starts. With every director close-up and every deafening bone crack, there's never a true sense of excitement or rooting involvement.

Image result for American assassin 2017 movie scenesAnyway, American Assassin is taken from a novel but it doesn't appear as such. Instead, this flick is overly commercial, has a loud, "popcorn" feel to it, and has a real preposterous indignation from the get-go. The Age of Innocence (1993), The English Patient (1996), and The Firm (1993) are all movies that are based on books. "Assassin" doesn't quite harbor that same vibe if you know what I mean.

As for the actors in American Assassin, well some are miscast (Sanaa Lathan as a Deputy Director), some have the physicality but you don't really root for them (Dylan O'Brien), and some come off as standard in the villain department (yes I'm talking about Taylor Kitsch). The one guy who rises above "Assassin's" regimented material is Micheal Keaton.

Heck, it seems like a lifetime ago when Keaton took on comedic roles. Now he has officially morphed into the quintessential bad-ass. With a closed-off persona, a lack of empathy, and a ruthlessly provoked nature, he's the best reason to see "Assassin". In one concluding scene, Michael's Stan bites the ear off a bad guy and then spits it right back at him. Billy "Blaze", we hardly knew ya.

Image result for American assassin movie scenesIn conclusion, American Assassin is directed by Michael Cuesta. He created a wonderful character study with Jeremy Renner in 2014's Kill the Messenger. Cuesta needs to get back to that kind of textured filmmaking because "Assassin" comes really close to "shooting" itself in the foot. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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