After his girlfriend is killed by terrorists, a young man becomes a
hellbent vigilante who is recruited to a counterterrorism unit by the CIA.
American Assassin (2017)
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Written by Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch,
Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Starring Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Shiva Negar,
Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet, Scott Adkins
Based on the novel by Vince Flynn
The idea that the CIA would recruit a vigilante with severe emotional problems to a counterterrorism unit is laughable, so if you accept that, the rest of this film is way easier to take in. American Assassin has elements of a great espionage thriller, but it ignores every opportunity for character growth and never makes good on the promise of revenge established in the first act. The characters are all pretty cut and dry clichés of espionage thrillers, though Michael Keaton is clearly having fun playing an unhinged CIA agent. There's just not enough substance here to justify its existence, which is a shame because I know there are fans of Vince Flynn's book series out there who were really looking forward to this.
Dylan O'Brien plays Mitch Rapp, who becomes an irrational vigilante after his girlfriend is gunned down by terrorists. He then spends over a year training his body and mind to hunt down the terrorist leader, who never comes up again once Mitch is recruited by the CIA. He is then trained for counterterrorism by Stan Hurley (Keaton), tough as nails badass who doesn't actually condition Mitch, who still goes off mission and follows his own orders without any repercussions. I hate when movies don't follow their own rules. Taylor Kitsch does a decent job as the villain Ghost, but they tease his backstory and connection with Hurley without ever really going into it. So, again, we're left in the dark. CIA movies always do this, and it's annoying.
American Assassin is ultimately another forgettable espionage thriller that stands almost entirely on Michael Keaton and Taylor Kitsch's shoulders. The plot is identical to so many other movies, the characters are mostly cardboard cutouts with assigned personality traits, and the film leaves way too many loose ends. On the plus side, the action scenes are pretty cool and the fight choreography isn't bad either.