After a string of well received films by director Michael Cuesta, the Hollywood call for another risk-less, humourless franchise was just too strong to ignore. Thankfully American Assassin will lay to rest with the other bare minimum attempts by Lionsgate to create a cash-cow replacement to the Hunger Games and the other 15 and counting novels in the same series will remain just that.
The biggest red flag is the four billed writers who produced three separate rewrites of the book adaptation. Four different people who wanted to leave their personal stamp, skewing the plot and tonality in their separate directions. The result is an incredibly self-serious film with a ludicrous storyline.
Dylan O’Brien, whose performance is only restricted by the material he has to work with, plays the main character of Mitch Rapp. On an idyllic beach in Ibiza he proposes to his girlfriend before heading to the bar for celebratory drinks. From the overly-saturated shooting style it is obvious that violence is incoming and sure enough multiple terrorists slaughter holiday-goers in an horrendously explicit sequence. Rapp gets shot several times but makes it over to his now-finacee just in time to see her become his ex-fiancee.
From here on in American Assassin becomes a vengeance-obsessed thriller and Rapp dedicates the next several months to become a MMA and gun-trained killer whilst simultaneously infiltrating a terrorist cell. When he travels to meet them, the CIA, who have allegedly been ‘monitoring him for some time’, charge in and take them all out.
Rapp in frustration stabs the dead body of one of them repeatedly before being dragged away. CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy, a role that wastes the talents of Sanaa Lathan, decides to hire Rapp rather than put him into prison, as any rational person would do.
A further step down into madness and Rapp’s character gets a quick-fire training by former Navy SEAL Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to be one of his ‘Orion’ operatives. His first task is to stop World War III. A person who two years prior was just an average joe now holds the peace of the world on his shoulders. Throw in Taylor Kitsch as ‘generic villain 001’, a nudity scene for the sake of the nudity scene and a finale with worse CGI than the James Bond glacial-surfing scene in Die Another Day and you have the makings of yet another 2017 flop film.
Although it isn’t addressed we can assume that many American people died in the climax to the film. None of that matters though because the main protagonist survives and the deceased aren’t introduced or developed as characters, going against the supposed main theme of the film that the death of innocent people is needless.
Through all the preposterousness you can kind of see what Cuesta intends, to find the gap between the young adult and crime genre’s hopefully attracting both demographics. The final scene is purposefully left open-ended to hint at a sequel but anyone who enjoyed this film may find themselves waiting a very long time.