How many times has a film had it’s protagonist suffer a life-altering event, for them to use that in their vengeance or as motivation. It’s seems to be a trademark for films involving spies, as the harrowed past is zeroed in on during their training montage.
And American Assassin does fall victim to this trope that has almost become a staple of these films. However due to the film being adapted from the original novels by Vince Flynn, I have no idea how faithful the film is to the books.
But American Assassin does feel incredibly poignant for the day and age we’re living in within the opening moments as Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is caught in an ambush by terrorists as they murder holiday goers. Amidst the chaos and merciless killings, Mitch’s fiancé is murdered with Mitch unable to save her.
Film, meet the harrowed past.
Rapp (as he goes by Rapp now) uses this as his motivation and begins training in vision to take down the terrorists that are responsible for the countless deaths. The film garnered an 18 rating by the BBFC, which I thought was odd considering IT was given a 15 rating. But the opening 10 minutes, it becomes clear with the merciless killing and the strong themes of terrorism and vengeance throughout.
My main issue with the film stemmed from the opening ten minutes, as although there is a lot to take in, I couldn’t find a connection with the character of Mitch. Part of this, I believe, comes down to the believability of what is actually on-screen. But also because of the montage, as he manages to successfully infiltrate a terrorist cell, but this is whilst taking up MMA and going rogue at firing ranges.
American Assassin does continue this trend as Michael Keaton’s Stan Hurley just rolls through the runtime and his character just isn’t believable at all. Rapp is enrolled in a black ops-training programme, headed by the aforementioned Stan Hurley, who is supposed to be a hard-nosed individual.
The narrative is a bit strange, because it’s built around the antagonist, but is largely washed over for the rushing into the grand finale of action. Strangely, it had depth, but it didn’t feel acted upon with the whole Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) character. Whereas the action scenes are intriguing, they are cut between far too quickly and sometimes feel like a mess as it ends up with Rapp and his assailant end up rolling around on the floor.
There are enjoyable sections to American Assassin but on a large scale it doesn’t work for me. I think the majority of this comes down to the acting that is on show. In glimpses, it’s okay, but for a large part there is no believability. I did mention that the opening is incredibly poignant for the time we’re currently living in, but it suddenly the vengeance is transferred from one character to another and never really delved into to what could’ve been an interesting story.
For the 110 minutes or so, the film’s narrative just bobs along. American Assassin is okay, but for sure there is nothing to be blown away by in the film. I did leave the film feeling like I haven’t enjoyed it, because it just decides to keep the framework for usual spy crime capers.