Friday, September 22, 2017


Rated:  R

STARS: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Taylor Kitsch
DIRECTOR: Michael Cuesta
GENRE: Action/Adventure/Espionage

Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) sees his fiance gunned down by terrorists in a bloody massacre. He himself is seriously wounded. Eighteen months later he's doing a Rocky Balboa style training regimen--punishing those punching bags and target shooting...with automatic weapons. He's out for revenge and ready to kick some ass. Next stop, CIA black ops. His crusty, highly skeptical mentor, Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) challenges him to prove himself at every turn. Now he's ready to head overseas and stick it to the bad guys. BAM BAM! BOOM BOOM! 

There's a rotating cast of bad guys that need hunting down. They all must be taken out in bloody and grisly fashion. BAM BAM! BOOM BOOM!  One group is trying to get their hands on a nuke.The stakes have been raised exponentially.

The plot, as is often the case with film adaptations of novels, is fast moving and will leave you in the dust if you look away for a moment to retrieve the popcorn you've dropped onto the floor for the purpose of stuffing it right back into your mouth. Like you, American Assassin tries to cram too much into a small space--in this case the just under two hours running time--consequently each plot element is given short-shrift and it's onto the next at breakneck speed.

VROOM VROOM! The cars are chasing each other through the winding streets of Rome and other exotic locations. While all of the surface level stuff is smashingly well done--the cinematography; the editing; the stirring score--in the end American Assassin is your standard revenge-justifies-any-and-all-means movie fare.

The only noteworthy acting turn is Michael Keaton's jaded hard-ass Stan Hurley. Beyond that, I have to ask myself why is it necessary for another film of this nature to exist? The ongoing, ear-piercing rat-a-tat; the cringe-worthy scenes of torture. It blends in with all the other nasty scenes from all the similarly nasty films out there that promote gratuitous violence (which American audiences feast upon like buzzards at a road kill). Which could have been mitigated to a degree had they attempted to place it in the context of a narrative that at least skimmed the surface of the complicated issues of why this tragic and unwinnable clash of ideologies exists in the first place. It's hard to take a film ostensibly about combating evil seriously when it's obvious the primary reason for making it is, in fact, the "root of all evil."



(You're too kind, Tim. BAM, BAM, BOOM, BOOM!) The only thing lacking in the opening beach scene of this ho-hum shoot-em-up was the theme from Jaws. We all knew something baaaad was about to happen. And happen. And happen....

In the beginning, I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, there'd be a kind of father-son relationship (a la John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in Red River) that would sustain my interest. I was wrong. Still hopeful, I thought maybe the love/hate trainer/trainee plot would make the movie watchable. (Remember Lou Gossett and Richard Geer in An Officer And A Gentleman?) No such luck.

Since a nuclear threat is currently sharing the news with hurricanes and earthquakes, American Assassin is at the very least timely. Perhaps if Kim Jong Un (AKA Rocket Man) was forced to watch it, he'd change his mind about nuking us. After all, despite impressive graphics when a nuclear device does in fact explode under water, nobody dies. And by then I was hoping everybody would!

The torture scene with Michael Keaton is worth a look and a lot of cringing. And some of the one-on-one fights were impressively choreographed. But really, folks. How many gut-punches can one viewer take? By the end, when our anti hero was battling with yet another villain on a moving speed boat, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud. I hope the actors were well paid for this turkey. It ain't worth the price of admission.

Grade: D