Initially this film looked like what may have been an entertaining revenge flick. A man, his fiancé killed by a terrorist cell, rises from the depths of despair to lay waste to those vile faces that haunt him. Self-determined in acquiring the necessary skills to exact brutal revenge, the dark hero is intercepted by the CIA, trained, and utilized towards the mutual purpose of exterminating the cells of terror.
The hero proves ultra capable and cunning. Terrorists retaliate in futile attempt to match our hero with force and we are privy to a masterpiece of carnage and ruthless justice that lacks in the real world. Antagonist and protagonist lock in legendary struggle for life and death to determine the fate of millions. At long last, a fight with tidal momentum culminating in a masterful defeat of evil by our hero who, on the brink of defeat, pulled from abyss of his pain the strength to vanquish his mortal enemy.
Budding actor, Dylan O’Brien gets my salute for his performance as Mitch Rapp, the story’s heart-broken protagonist turned rogue revenge seeker. O’Brien delivered as far as good acting goes and I can appreciate that despite the asinine liberties taken by the writers about the CIA and his character becoming an agent. However, no amount of acting acumen can hide a lack of martial arts training. The MMA scene was painfully unconvincing to say the least. The range scene, well, I’m pretty sure a range safety officer would take that dude’s head clean off and sleep like a baby.
Alongside our hero is Michael Keaton as retired service Batman. He’s the ye olde weathered, former operator, seen some shit, now hard ass trainer of agents that we know and love. I don’t think you can go wrong with Keaton, the guy’s a master of his trade and I’ve always enjoyed his performances. A part of the equation lacks as his character is pushed a little too hard to formulate that trust by tribulations dynamic with O’Brien. For a staunch, my-way-or-the-highway type of character, Keaton is constantly undermined by everyone around him. Additionally, he launches into a few overly personal attacks on his understudy’s past which all come off as artificial.
The beautiful Sanaa Lathan (Love & Basketball) plays the CIA shot caller in the mix, pushing to utilize Rapp and his self-acquired skills. She keeps the viewer up to speed on a budding nuclear crisis that necessitates Mitch being rushed along in his training camp. In fact, no sooner did she drop him off than she pulls a U-ey and back to invoke the ancient rite of the “He’s ready/ He’s not ready,” argument with the only qualified person to actually determine if he’s ready: Batman.
We are privy to a round of a VR goggle Time Crisis training game wherein the trainees don shock vests and hologram goggles shooting what looks like blanks that register as holographic bullets. This is normal, right?
Cue the big reveal (not really). Our new antagonist is a former favorite student of Batman. Taylor Kitsch, sporting a history of roles in films like Lone Survivor, Battleship, and Savages plays a convincing rogue agent named “The Ghost.” This makes it immediately apparent that Mitch and Ghost will be on a crash course for each other as former teacher’s pet engages current. Props to Kitsch for a solid performance despite a barrage of villain cliches.
Without spoiling the ending, I found the last act lacking any real suspense. It rings predictable and the action doesn’t carry the low intensity finale. As potent as O’Brien and Kitsch’s performances are, the final duel feels lethargic and dull.
In conclusion, while entertaining, American Assassin is a bit anticlimactic. I give it a 3 for the acting from Batman, Kitsch, and O’Brien which is its saving grace from turning into a complete C level CIA action flick. Bring some popcorn and tequila for this one (don’t judge me) but don’t expect to be riveted to your seat for this Hollywood joy ride on the secret squirrel express.
Affectionately called Guttas. Born and raised Boston, MA. Currently living in Albuquerque, NM. Two-time Golden Gloves boxing champion. New England Invitational boxing champion. Winner of the Discovery Channel’s boxing TV show “The Fighters.”
Head coach to UFC top 10 middleweight fighter, Jorge Rivera. Instructor for RangerUp’s Train the Troops tour training U.S. Marines at Pendleton, Miramar, and Yuma. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor. Mentored by George Hand in the art of operations against human trafficking. Movie buff. Wine enthusiast.
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