become a Patreon patron

film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

American Assassin movie review: we’ve CIAn it all before

American Assassin red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

It’s tormented hotheads all around with a hero and villain who are almost indistinguishable and same-old spy stuff racing to a seen-it, been-there ticking-clock finale.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love a good action movie
I’m “biast” (con): this looked really familiar
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

Lordy, save us from young hothead dudes who disobey every order yet save the day, leaving their older, wiser, and more experienced superiors in awe. Let’s not encourage this. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien: Deepwater Horizon, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) — why not just call him Lank Squarejaw? — is “the best I’ve ever seen” whose test scores are “off the charts” and “through the roof.” He’s got “talent and balls”! He’s got a dead blonde fiancée killed by terrorists — let’s zoom right in on her lifeless pretty face: yup, she’s dead dead dead — to motivate him in the hunt for bad guys. He is white man’s vengeance.tweet

Our Hero has a fiancée killed by terrorists to motivate his bad-guy hunt.

So is Ghost (Taylor Kitsch: Lone Survivor, Battleship), who’s been through the same experimental CIA training program as Mitch but went rogue, and has his own revenge to take. (Everyone is a badass misfit here,tweet including Michael Keaton [Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Founder] as the guy who trained them.) Often I couldn’t distinguish Mitch from Ghost — sometimes physically but mostly psychologically — but I don’t think American Assassin realizes that it’s accidentally making a point about how maybe experimental programs to create newfangled secret agents are a bad idea, if half of them turn villain and all of them are impossible to control. (See also: Jason Bourne.) Nope: Not one but two generic skimmed-milk lunkheads are merely emblematic of the shrug of action-packed indifferencetweet with which director Michael Cuestan (Kill the Messenger) has brought novelist Vince Flynn’s bestselling covert operative to the big screen. (Someone in Hollywood who wanted to find a fresh angle on this sort of same-old same-old could cast either Sanaa Lathan [Now You See Me 2, The Perfect Guy], here as Mitch’s CIA handler, or Shiva Negar, here another agent who partners up with Mitch, in their own super-secret-agent movies, where they get to be the badass misfit.)

“Say ‘I’m Batman,’ and make me believe it, and I won’t shoot you.”

“Say ‘I’m Batman,’ and make me believe it, and I won’t shoot you.”tweet

There’s a “Russian plutonium situation” that demands travel to Istanbul, London, and Rome, but don’t get your hopes up for globetrotting exoticismtweet: Croydon substitutes for the Turkish city in one bland scene. Some random naked boobs, an “I never told you that name” giveaway, a scene of sadistic torture, and a ticking-clock finale later, so much military, cultural, political, and actual disaster-type damage has been done that the world is likely changed forever… and no one seems to notice, including the movie itself. In attempting to somehow be apolitical even while invoking such huge hot-button issues such as, for starters, Islamic-tinged terrorism and suitcase nukes, the movie ends up as something that might piss off both left- and right-wingers, if the movie were rousing enough to prompt any significant thought about it. It’s all almost 60s-Bond ridiculous except without any sense of humor whatsoever, or even a hint of awareness of how ridiculous it is.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other theatrical releases.

red light 2 stars

When you purchase or rent almost anything from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and iTunes (globally), you help support my work at Flick Filosopher. Please use my links when you’re shopping at either service. Thank you!

American Assassin (2017) | directed by Michael Cuestan
US/Can release: Sep 15 2017
UK/Ire release: Sep 14 2017

MPAA: rated R for strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity
BBFC: rated 18 (strong sadistic and bloody violence)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap