Movie Review: "American Assassin"
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) is in love and ready to propose to his girlfriend. The proposal goes very well, that is, until their vacation spot is attacked by a group of terrorists. Mitch Rapp survives the attack but his girlfriend does not and, in the months that follow, Mitch Rapp becomes set on a mission of rage and revenge as he trains himself in various skills (such as: hand-to-hand combat, knife mastery, and weapons training). Armed with these new skills, Mitch Rapp tracks 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 being watched by a government agency who follows 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 would be placed in a special unit that is led by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Stan Hurly 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.
The Pros & Cons
Dylan O'Brien (+5pts)
Plot "Twists" (-6pts)
Michael Keaton (+8pts)
The Action (-4pts)
The Setup (+4pts)
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 the role. It would be unfair for me to say that I thought he was bad in the films, but I thought he gave very average performances. So heading into American Assassin, I was expecting another average performance from the actor.
I was, fortunately, pleasantly surprised by Dylan O'Brien's performance in this film. Dylan O'Brien plays Mitch Rapp, a man who is ready to marry his girlfriend, only for her to be shot and killed during a terrorist attack. Mitch Rapp then decides to train himself to hunt and kill the men responsible for his girlfriends death. It is 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. 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 fun to watch and proved that he has some serious acting chops.
Con: Plot "Twists" (-6pts)
This film falls into the same mistake that so many action films fall into. It has a weak and predictable plot that is so ridiculous and poorly written that the film gets pretty boring in a few areas. The film has a few plot "twists" that are so obvious that they become surprising. That does not sound like it makes any sense but stay with me.
There are points in the movie that severely hint at plot twists for the film. The hints are so obvious that I thought the "twist" would go a different way, just to psych out the audience. Nope, the film hints strongly at the upcoming plot twists then delivers on exactly what the audience thought the twist would be. Why even have a plot twist?
Pro: Michael Keaton (+8pts)
There is no doubt, Michael Keaton is a fantastic actor. This film is a cheesy, generic, action film but Michael Keaton gives it so much life. He gives this role so much attitude and makes the character feel unpredictable (in the middle of a predictable plot). He also brings a lot of intensity to his scenes, especially the ones between himself and Dylan O'Brien.
This film was written poorly, and the character development of Michael Keaton's character is no exception, but he was able to give life to the character and make the film interesting whenever he was on screen.
Con: The Action (-4pts)
I will start by saying that there is a lot of action in this movie. From the opening scene, and to the last, there is plenty of action in this film. The problem lies in the fact that the film does not do anything special in it's action sequences. Everything in this movie has been done many times before.
So yes, there is plenty of action in this film but it is very average action that audiences have seen in so many films before this one. There are gunfights, hand-to-hand fights, blades, cars, helicopters, and explosions. Like I said, there is plenty of action in this film but it just feels very standard. So, if you do not think you will be bothered by the unoriginality, ignore this point. However, I (personally) want a movie to give me something special and, unfortunately, this movie's action did not do the trick.
Pro: The Setup (+4pts)
I thought this film did a decent job at setting up the premise of the film. It is a ridiculous premise in which a man (with no military or combat experience) suffers a tremendous loss and decides to train himself to take out an international terrorist organization (by himself). This is a difficult premise to setup in a believable way, but I thought the film, more or less, succeeded in doing so. The film focuses in on the loss and the rage that Mitch Rapp feels, after the tragedy. He is not in his right state of mind, and is blinded by his rage and emotion. The film really focuses on Mitch Rapp's pain which is why the audience is able to forgive some of the issues with the film's setup.
Mitch Rapp, due to his recent activities, has found himself on the receiving end of government surveillance. This is totally believable but what makes it unbelievable is what the government agency does with the information they have gathered on Mitch Rapp. Rather than label him as a suspicious and dangerous person, they follow him to the terrorist group (whom he is trying to kill) and they try to recruit him to be a government agent. Really? This guy clearly has issues and this agency wants to give him a gun and put him in the field?
The film has a bunch of early plot points that are way too far fetched (even for a film as ridiculous as this one) but, by focusing on the weight of Mitch Rapp's pain, the audience is able to look past the films more ridiculous elements during the setup of the film. This is possible because this film's setup is driven on emotion, as opposed to realism. So yes, the film has a ridiculous premise, but it does an effective job at getting the audience invested in it, regardless, because it focuses on the emotional weight of losing a loved one (something that everyone can relate to in some respect).
Con: Generic (-6pts)
This film's biggest issue was how unoriginal it felt. The plot, storylines, action, and ending were all generic. The plot, as ridiculous as it was, was (at it's core) generic. Story of a young man on a mission of redemption after losing a loved one (we have all seen that before). Young up-and-comer struggles to get the approval of his mentor (we have all seen that story before too). I know it sounds like I am over simplifying these story elements, but think of movie storylines that share those storylines. This movie hits the same plot points (that I do not want to get into to avoid spoilers. Then the action sequences struggled to show anything that felt new or fresh. 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 film that does not borrow concepts from the films that came before, but this film does not do anything special. It would be acceptable if the film had a generic plot, storyline, ending, or action but it is the combination of all of them that causes the film to feel dull.
Grade: C- (74pts)
American Assassin is not a bad movie, but it struggles to get past the generic issues that so many action films suffer from. Michael Keaton is one of this film's biggest strengths. In the midst of a weak plot and weak character development, Michael Keaton is able to give so much attitude and life to his character. This makes the movie so much more entertaining when he is on screen (and he gets plenty of screen time). Another strength of the film is it's lead actor, Dylan O'Brien. This young actor has had his fair share of average performances in the past, but brings real emotion to this role. Through the film's ridiculous and stereotypical plot, one thing is constant: Mitch Rapp is in pain. Mitch Rapp does not have the military background, which so many characters in this film possess. Instead, Mitch is a self-trained loose cannon who is driven by emotion and revenge. This is a focal point throughout most of the film, and Dylan O'Brien did a great job of giving the character the depth that he needed for the entirety of the film.
The film's weaknesses all stem from bad writing. The premise is ridiculous (if you need proof of that, count how many times I use the word "ridiculous" in this review), the plot is predictable, the storylines are generic, and the action is standard. Again, it is not a bad movie (barely), but it fails to bring anything unique to the big screen. So if you like ridiculous (I did it again) action movies and are not bothered by the average action, then you might just enjoy American Assassin. Otherwise, you can probably skip this movie.