Friday, September 22, 2017

American Assassin Movie Review: Familiar Action-Spy Thriller With Lots Of Violent Action Scenes And A High Body Count

DYLAN O’BRIEN first made waves on TV in “Teen Wolf”, then he was projected as a teen action star in “The Maze Runner” franchise. Now, he’s being built up as a young action star in “American Assassin”, based on Vince Flynn’s 2010 novel. If the film would be a big hit, then this will be a franchise like the James Bond or Jason Bourne flicks.

Dylan plays Mitch Rapp. The opening scenes shows him proposing marriage to his girlfriend on the beach in Ibiza when terrorists barge in and begin shooting innocent civilians with assault rifles. His girlfriend is shot to death while he himself is wounded.


Cut to 18 months later. Mitch is thirsty for revenge and tries to infiltrate the terrorist group who murdered his girlfriend. But just before he can kill the leader of the terrorists, U.S. soldiers barge in to intervene. Mitch refuses to get deprived of his vengeance and still gets to stab the terrorist leader repeatedly.

He is then taken to a CIA safehouse and the director (Sanaa Latham) offers him to be part of a covert
operations unit against terrorists called Orion, headed by a US Navy Seal veteran, Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Mitch accepts the offer and Hurley then trains him to be an expert assassin.

The first mission he gets involved in is to get back some plutonium, a nuclear material stolen from a decommissioned nuclear facility in Russia. Iranian hardliners want to get it to use it against the U.S. But a former student of Hurley now called The Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who was believed to have killed in action, has taken the plutonium for himself and wants to sell it to the highest bidder. Taylor was launched to stardom in such action flicks before as “Battleship” and “John Carter” but they didn’t well so he’s now relegated to playing villain roles.

The Ghost is just like Jason Bourne. They’re human weapons created by the military to kill their enemies but later on became renegades who turned on their own creators themselves after feeling shortchanged. The Ghost has an ax to grind against his ex-mentor, Hurley, and kidnaps and torture him. Will Mitch come on time before The Ghost finally exterminates Hurley and also save an entire U.S. navy fleet from a horrible nuclear explosion? That, of course, is a rhetorical question.

As an action film and spy thriller, “American Assassin” seems familiar as we’ve seen this material before in past action flicks. Revenge as the trigger that motivates the lead character is certainly nothing new. Compared to other more heavyset action stars, Dylan looks much more slight in built, but he compensates by doing lots of athletic and death-defying stunts without a double. He should thank his director, Michael Cuesta (best known for the hit TV series “Homeland”), for keeping the camera quite agile in showing that he himself is the one who is doing his own very physically challenging action sequences.

Though the movie’s main premise lacks originality, it makes up for it by coming up with a lot of exciting action scenes that can often be violent and with a high body count, though not as brutal as the “John Wick” movies. It also does a lot of location hopping from Poland to Italy and other countries. The cast is honestly sincerely invested in their earnest performances, with Michael Keaton a stand out as Hurley. We continue to believe that he is the one more deserving to win the 2014 Oscar best actor award for “Birdman”.

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