The last few years have been somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to action movies. The bad, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the mediocre, The Purge: Election Year, and the downright tragic, Batman v Superman have all plagued us just in the previous two years. Even though these among other shitfests exist there are the masterpieces of action that have renewed the lifeblood of the modern action flick. Films like John Wick 1&2, Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool are all prime examples that greatness can still be found within the genre. With the bar being placed higher with better and better action movies, new comers like American Assassin have a lot to live up to. The question is, does it? No. To clarify that isn’t a complete condemnation, it simply doesn’t quite live up to those I just listed. That said, American Assassin is a damn fun movie and I would love to see further installments.
The most obvious shortcoming would have to be the story; not that it’s boring but just old hat in a few places. A nuclear bomb is loose and the good guys have to stop the bad guys from using it in some unimaginably heinous terrorist act. I can name ten movies off the top of my head with this very same premise. Whether it’s an actual missing bomb or codes for bombs or materials for a bomb, you’ve ridden this roller coaster before and the surprise twists aren’t exactly a revelation anymore.
Yet another issue lies with the timeline of the film, it feels so rushed that certain elements took me out of the film at times. The biggest thing I noticed is that our protagonist goes from civilian to trained master assassin in a mere eighteen months. In a year and six months he becomes highly proficient in mixed martial arts, Farsi, gun handling and firing and infiltrates a terrorist cell deep undercover all on his own. Learning hand to hand combat at his level would take years of training and the same goes for everything else he masters. Let’s not overlook the fact that he learns all of these things at the same time. It’s repeated that he is determined but damn that’s a lot to perfect in such a short period of time no matter his determination level.
Despite the many flaws, there is a lot to enjoy here and it all starts with Dylan O’Brien as Mitch Rapp, an innocent man turned assassin through tragedy. This particular character demands a balance of focus and lack thereof as his anger takes him over. He possesses the skills necessary to complete his overall mission but his past clouds his judgement leaving him vulnerable to failure. This is where Michael Keaton comes in as hardened veteran Stan Hurley. Through his unorthodox but highly effective training he has the tools to hone Rapp’s skillset and subdue his personal attachments as these things are nothing more than weakness. Bodies fall and action flows as Rapp and his team race against time to stop a once loyal comrade who has chosen the darker path.
O’Brien is convincing in every aspect of this character and without question carries this film to its enthralling climax. Alongside him is Keaton who is just simply a badass, but you already knew that right? Of course you did. Sanaa Lathan is a stoic, to the point recruiter who brings Rapp in and introduces him to his new fearless leader, Hurley (Keaton). While these characters don’t exactly inspire they do come together well and connect and clash in convincing enough fashion. This is the beginning of Rapp’s espionage, murder riddled career and with O’Brien at the reigns, this potential franchise looks like a lot of fun to be had.
I said earlier that it isn’t exactly an instant hit like the Wick films but it still brings the heat with intense fighting scenes and visceral, violent gunplay that is quite honestly shocking as it just swarms without warning. The catalyst that sets the protagonist on his path is believable in comparison to his unwavering anger and undying need for vengeance. It makes sense why he is so hellbent on killing those that took what was most precious to him.
To sum this all up, American Assassin is worthy of a watch. Will it amaze you? No, probably not. But if like me, from time to time you just want an action film made for adults, not indifferent teenagers, then American Assassin should appeal to you. It’s fun, violent, bloody, funny at times, and I think most importantly, it’s entertaining frivolity and I for one had a great time watching these people kick ass and take names.
Rated R For: strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity
Runtime: 111 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Thriller
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Taylor Kitsch
Directed By: Michael Cuesta
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 3.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 3.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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