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Movie Review: "American Assassin"

Updated on May 29, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

American Assassin

Theatrical Release: 9/15/2017
Theatrical Release: 9/15/2017 | Source


Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) is in love and was ready to propose to his girlfriend. The proposal went very well, that is, until their vacation spot was attacked by a group of terrorists. Mitch Rapp survived the attack, but his tragically girlfriend did not. In the months that followed, Mitch Rapp became set on a mission of rage and revenge as he trained himself in various skills—such as hand-to-hand combat, knife mastery, and weapons training. Armed with these new skills, Mitch Rapp plans to track down and contacts the terrorist organization responsible for his girlfriend's death. His goal is to act as a potential recruit so that the terrorist group brings him to them—that is when he will strike.

Unbeknownst to him, Mitch Rapp has been monitored by a government agency who followed him to the terrorist group. They interrupt Mitch's plan, take out the terrorist organization themselves, and take Mitch into custody. Now, the agency must decide whether or not Mitch Rapp is a potential threat or a potential asset. Mitch is certainly too much of a loose cannon to be an ordinary asset, so he is placed in a special unit that is led by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Stan Hurley is a tough, former U.S. Navy SEAL who must now decide if Mitch Rapp is fit to be in his special counter-terrorist unit.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Dylan O'Brien (+5pts)
Plot "Twists" (-6pts)
Michael Keaton (+6pts)
The Action (-4pts)
The Setup (+4pts)
Generic (-6pts)

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.


Pro: Dylan O'Brien (+5pts)

I was not expecting much of Dylan O'Brien in this film. I had seen him in both of the
films in the Maze Runner series and I did not think he brought anything special to that role. It would be unfair for me to say that I thought he was bad in those movies, but I thought he gave pretty unremarkable performances in both. Thus, heading into American Assassin, I was expecting another average performance from the actor.

I was then pleasantly surprised by Dylan O'Brien's performance in this movie. It was a pretty ridiculous premise for a young man, with no military background, to self-train himself to take on an international terrorist group in another country. As ridiculous as the premise was, Dylan O'Brien brought a lot of emotion to the role, which made it easy to buy into the premise. He did a great job at showing the character's pain, his drive, and his PTSD. This was a very cheesy action film, but Dylan O'Brien was entertaining to watch as he fleshed this character out on screen, and proved that he can handle dramatic roles.


Con: Plot "Twists" (-6pts)

This movie fell into the same mistake that so many action movies have fallen into. It had a weak and predictable plot, which was so ridiculous and poorly written that it resulted in a boring movie—at times. The film had a few plot "twists" that were so obvious that they become surprising, as they were so obvious that I thought were red herrings, but was ultimately proven wrong. There were points in the movie that severely hinted at plot twists to the story. The hints were so obvious that I thought the "twist" would go a different way, just to psych out the audience. Nope, the film hinted strongly at the upcoming plot twists then delivered on exactly what the audience thought the twist would be, which sort of defeats the purpose of having the plot twists at all.


Pro: Michael Keaton (+6pts)

There is no doubt that Michael Keaton is a fantastic actor. This movie was a cheesy, generic, action film, but Michael Keaton gave it so much depth. He gave his role a personality that made the character feel complex and unpredictable—in the middle of an otherwise predictable movie. He also brought a lot of intensity to his scenes—especially the ones between himself and Dylan O'Brien—which made him captivating whenever he was on screen. This film was written poorly, and the character development of Michael Keaton's character was no exception, but he unsurprisingly did a great job with what he was given.


Con: The Action (-4pts)

I will start by saying that there was a lot of action in this movie. From the opening scene, and to the last, there were plenty of action sequences scattered throughout. My problem with the action was not with its frequency, but was with the fact that the filmmakers did not do anything special in it's action sequences. Everything in this movie has been done many times before.

The action in this movie was very typical, and was all stuff that you have seen done before, and it was all stuff that you have seen done better. There were gunfights, hand-to-hand fights, blades, cars, helicopters, and explosions. If you are just looking for mindless action and do not think you will be bothered by the unoriginal action, ignore this point. However, I personally want action movies to give me something special, and unfortunately, this movie's action did not do the trick.


Pro: The Setup (+4pts)

I thought the filmmakers did a decent job at setting up the premise of the film. This was a difficult premise to setup in a believable way, but I thought the filmmakers—more or less—succeeded in doing so. The story focused on the loss and the rage that Mitch Rapp felt after the tragedy. By focusing on his rage and his pain, the audience is able to forgive—or overlook—some of the issues that arose from the premise being so ridiculous. What made the premise so unbelievable was what the government agency did with the information they had gathered on Mitch Rapp. Rather than label him as a suspicious and dangerous person, they followed him and they tried to recruit him to be a government agent. This guy clearly had issues, was clearly unstable, and this agency wanted to give him a gun and put him in the field?

The movie had a bunch of early plot points that were way too far fetched—even for a film as ridiculous as this one. However, by focusing on the weight of Mitch Rapp's pain, the audiences will be able to look past the more ridiculous aspects of the premise. Yes, the film had a ridiculous premise, but the filmmakers did an effective job at getting the audience invested in it anyway. They did this by focusing on the emotional weight of losing a loved one, which is something that anyone can relate to.


Con: Generic (-6pts)

This movie's biggest issue was how unoriginal it felt. The plot, storylines, action, and ending were all just really generic. This movie hit the same plot points—that I do not want to get into to avoid spoilers—that too many movies have hit before it. Then the action sequences struggled to show anything that felt new, fresh, or even very exciting. Yet the worst of all was that the ending was so predictable, because we have all seen how similar movies have ended. I know, it is almost impossible to have a completely original story that does not borrow concepts from other stories, but the filmmakers did absolutely nothing special with this movie. It would have been acceptable if the film had a generic plot, storyline, ending, or action but it is the combination of all of them that caused this movie to feel really dull.

Grading Scale


Grade: C- (74pts)

American Assassin was not a bad movie, but it struggled to get past the generic issues that so many action films have suffered from. Michael Keaton was one of this film's biggest strengths, but was not able to save the movie by himself. Nonetheless, in the midst of a weak plot and weak character development, Michael Keaton was able to give a lot of attitude and life to his character. Then there was the main character's pain, which was a focal point throughout most of the movie, and Dylan O'Brien did a great job at bringing that pain to the screen.

The film's weaknesses all lead back to bad writing. The premise was ridiculous, the plot was predictable, the storylines were generic, and the action was nothing special. Again, it was not a "bad" movie, but the filmmakers failed to bring anything unique to the big screen. If you are looking for a mindless action movie and would not be bothered by the average action and weak plot, then you might just enjoy American Assassin. Otherwise, you should probably skip this one.


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