American Assassin, directed by Michael Cuesta, is as bland as an action movie can possibly get. Almost every element of this film is either failed in its execution or overlooked as a possibly stimulating addition to the film. Nothing ever pays off in a way that makes sitting through this film worthwhile and nothing ever happens that makes it an exciting watch. It is nothing but mundane. But where does the problem lie? Is there anything that perhaps sneaks to the surface and creates some level of interest? Let’s dissect the film in my review and find out.
After the murder of his fiancé at the hands of a group of terrorists, Mitch Rapp – played by Dylan O’Brien – seeks to hunt them all down and kill them. He trains himself and sets out to see his goals fulfilled. However, he is intercepted by the CIA who recruit him and set him on the path to being one of their most proficient killing machines. It falls to former Navy Seal and all around tough guy, Stan Hurley – played by Michael Keaton – to get him mission ready. But will Rapp’s inexperience and inability to listen orders to make him a liability?
This film had the possibility for three compelling elements, any of which could have possibly given the film something to hold the audience’s attention. The one that I can’t believe wasn’t a priority is the main protagonist. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) in the beginning has a powerful motivation moving him and that motivation is one that we the audience can easily get behind: Revenge for the cold-blooded murder of his fiancé, right in front of him. However, that motivation is never given the attention or growth to ever make it feel like more than just a forgettable character trait.
You see, Mitch Rapp is as one-dimensional as they come. He has one thing that truly defines him and beyond that, nothing that makes him standout as an interesting or deep character. I remember sitting there as the silly climax to the film had just happened and everyone was praising Rapp for his heroism, and all I could think to myself was: the journey that this character just took was not one that at any point made the large, explosive climax feel like a satisfying or worthy path for the character. He did not earn the heroic win of the day; he did not earn the time or attention of the audience. He simply existed as a sullen, tedious person for the whole film, who at no point grows or develops in a way that makes watching him or the film worth it.
If you start a film with a damaged character who is uncontrollable and self-destructive, you hope by the end of it the film it has taken the time to right his wrongs. To put him on a path that sees him getting better and beginning to properly deal with the trauma that haunts him. American Assassin at no point does that. It just has the character continue to do and be the annoyance that he has been since the beginning and we’re supposed to just deal with the fact that any sort of development isn’t going to happen. I disliked the character in the beginning, but thought that over the course of the film he would grow into someone worthy of rooting for and caring about, but that never happened. Much like the character himelf, my feelings towards him stayed the same throughout.
The other two possible compelling elements in the film are, Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) the man who tries to teach and better Rapp, and Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) the man who Rapp and Hurley must hunt down and eliminate, before he does something catastrophic. But, much like the lead character they are failed by the film. Stan Hurley never goes beyond the gruff, tough guy who says a bunch of macho things to Rapp, and Ghost is your typical antagonist who feels betrayed by the country he served and wants to seek revenge on it. That’s as far as the two characters ever go. The annoying part is that each of the three actors seemed to be really trying to make something more of their characters.
Dylan O’Brien clearly put in the time and effort to train and learn the skills necessary, to come across as a believable and formidable leading man who could take on the bad guys and subsequently take them down. But he is simply given nothing to work with. He never gets to go beyond the one-note that is his character. And it’s a similar situation for Keaton and Kitsch who looked to be trying to make their characters more than just gruff, angry tough guys, but there simply isn’t anything in the script for them to be able to do that. The scene in which Keaton’s character and Kitsch’s character faceoff (it was Hurley who recruited and trained Ghost) is where you can really get a sense of the two characters trying to make something compelling. They play off of one another really well and I got the sense that they work-shopped that scene quite a bit, but like everything in this film, they are let down by a weak script and some harmfully basic direction. A waste of all three actors is what it adds up too.
Beyond those failed elements, which had the chance to be good, the film has nothing of note to offer. The main plot is so cripplingly basic, that there isn’t a single point where it will grab/hold your attention. Bad guy wants a nuclear bomb so that he can attack the U.S. military with it – how original. That’s it, that’s all the film can muster in the way of a plot. Had there been some characters, or a sub-plot or even some fun action (which I’ll touch upon in a moment) then I could easily see the staleness of the plot not being a problem, but there is nothing.
What a film like this needed – when it has no characters or story – is a noticeable momentum to it. It needs to move along at a hurried pace and fill any of the empty moments with some fun actions scenes. Because when it doesn’t, you’re quickly able to notice just how little it has to offer. When it slows down and attempts to expand upon its non-existent plot; dullness sets in and you begin to see all the failings of the film and they being to fester until you can’t see anything else but them. But not even this action movie has any exciting action – it fails at that as well.
There isn’t a single memorable fight scene, or car chase or set-piece. It is a total bore in that respect as well. I pointed out earlier that the lead actor, Dylan O’Brien seemed to have taken the time to ready himself for the fight scenes, and I stand by that assessment, but unfortunately, he doesn’t really get the chance to show his talents. He doesn’t get to be a part of a particular stunt or a particular moment that stands out; makes you sit back in your chair and be wowed by something magnificent – and with it having an ‘18’ certification here in the UK, you’d hope it could do something fun with the freedom of violence, but nope.
So, you have characters that never go beyond a single defining characteristic, a plot that does nothing to set itself apart from other actions films, and then the final killing blow: action that is even more boring than the other things I just listed. All n’ all, a waste of many opportunities and more importantly, your time.
I do not recommend, American Assassin. There isn’t a single reason why you should go see this film. It offers nothing that makes it worth you spending your time or your money on it. There are some far more worthy films out in the cinema right now so go see any of them.
So what did you think of my review? I’d love for you to tell me in the comments section down below. If you’re feeling kind, I’d appreciate it if you could give both my blog a follow and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. I’ll finish up by thanking you for taking the time to read to this point and I hope you have a brilliant day!