Nowadays it seems you can’t walk down the street without happening upon a film poster for the latest anti-terrorism actioner. And it appears that American Assassin is no different. Despite what is, for all intents and purposes, an interesting story, Assassin suffers from something that’s hard to work around – it lacks substance.
Dylan O’Brien leads the cast as Mitch Rapp; with him we first encounter the usual trope of a tragic character’s campaign to get revenge against those that wronged him. It’s hard to tell exactly what went wrong here – as it sounds logical enough. But the problem is that, while Rapp has a cause you can buy into, he has an inability to follow the orders that will help him achieve his goals, ultimately making him seem a little childish. Rapp doesn’t have a cause, he has a vendetta. And unfortunately it’s hard to be engaged in someone else’s conflict.
While the initial scenes are horrifying to watch and, admittedly, well directed, they’re just not as hard-hitting as they should be. And that’s the real issue here – we don’t buy into any of the characters. Underdeveloped and petulant, we never see anyone in this film carry out anything of real value. What appears to be another interesting character in Taylor Kitsch is ruined by a poor story arch – you’d think they could have come up with a smarter explanation for the atrocities he commits other than “he’s just crazy”. It’s all painfully predictable.
While American Assassin offers what could have been an interesting idea, it merely ends up feeling like a modern-day reworking of every other spy action film. Just like the rest of the topical counter-terrorism flicks of the past few years, Assassin struggles to escape being generic and ends up ultimately unmemorable.
CAST: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch
DIRECTOR: Michael Cuesta
WRITERS: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch
SYNOPSIS: 23 year-old Mitch lost his parents to a tragic car accident at the age of 14, and his girlfriend to a terrorist attack just as they were engaged. Seeking revenge, he is enlisted by the CIA as a black ops recruit.