American Assassin is the new film from director Michael Cuesta (he directed the criminally underseen Kill the Messenger) and stars Dylan O’Brien and the great Michael Keaton. I admit, I was not really excited about this movie or really knew what it was about (obviousness aside). I saw one trailer over the summer and while I was intrigued, it didn’t really stick with me. Unfortunately, I can say the same about the movie as a whole.
American Assassin tells the story of Mitch Rapp (O’Brien), a young CIA recruit brought in to stop a terrorist plot. He lost his parents at a young age and his girlfriend was murdered on a beach during a terrorist attack. He is trained by the gruff and tough Stan Hurley (Keaton) who is reluctant to train this kid who has serious issues with authority. Stop me if you heard this before.
That’s the biggest problem with this movie. It’s not a terrible movie by any means, but it feels like any other generic action/thriller thrown in at the end of summer before the Oscar train starts. Even with it’s two leads, it fails to make an impact with the paint by numbers story. I was left wondering why this was a story that needed to be told, during it’s one hour, fifty minute runtime, I was looking at my watch wondering when this would end.
It can’t be all bad right? No, not completely. Dylan O’Brien shows off some real physicality in this role (never seen the Maze Runner movies but he was my pick for the new Spider-Man) and really has a grounded approach to his character. Michael Keaton is fantastic as always. He chews the scenery and is really having a ball in this role, especially during the climax of the film. Taylor Kitsch also gives a fun performance as Ghost, the rogue agent who was once a pupil of Hurley’s. I have been a huge fan of Kitsch since Friday Night Lights and I never understood why he hasn’t caught on has a big time player in Hollywood. Hopefully these smaller roles of his are starting to turn some heads and he will be leading a film again soon.
Now I know what you’re thinking, maybe the plot was predictable, but the action scenes had to be great, right? Wrong. The action scenes were fine for the most part. Cuesta didn’t result to the oh so popular shaky camera effects that most big Hollywood action films seem to love, but they action didn’t really wow you. They teetered between grounded, real action and the more fantastical elements like Jason Bourne or John Wick. It was cool, but not really all that exciting.
American Assassin just didn’t live up to the mark other assassin movies have hit. Despite good, even fun performances, the bland action and unoriginal plot really weighs this movie down. I do hope we see more from Dylan O’Brien as his natural charisma will carry over to other franchises, but this was not going to be it. If this was a Netflix original movie or direct to video, it would of been a perfectly fine, even enjoyable action movie, but more a major motion picture, I needed more from it.