American Assassin: Film Review
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan
Director: Michael Cuesta
Some time ago, in the late 80s to the early 90s, a thriller like American Assassin would have been all the rage.
Thanks to the pulpy page-turners of John Grisham et al, and Harrison Ford in the likes of Patriot Games, the action-thriller was de rigeur.
In American Assassin, the Maze Runner star Dylan O'Brien is Mitch Rapp, a man whose fiancee is murdered on an Ibiza beach when terrorists strike just moments after he's got engaged.
Understandably angered, Rapp trains himself to infiltrate the terrorist cell to wreak revenge.
But when his quest goes awry, he finds himself sucked into a secret counter terrorist group run by CIA Head Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) and headed up in the field by Hurley (Michael Keaton).
With a nuclear football in play and a rogue agent at the centre of it, the race against time is on.
American Assassin is a solid enough, if generic, thriller.
Anchored by a fairly emotionless O'Brien as Rapp, and a suitably over the top Keaton in the final stretches, the film's pace is solid, if never spectacular and is predictable as they come in terms of twists and turns.
Based on Vince O'Flynn's novel series, the faux 24 vibe complete with punkish emo arrogance translates to set pieces that seem lost in 2017, where sophistication is jettisoned in favour of by-the-numbers formula aimed at hitting the expected beats of the genre, but never exceeding them.
Whilst its initial Americans-beating-the-terrorists vibe feels like an answer to the current global ills, the film soon settles for your average cliched dialogue and macho bon mots as it hits its unchallenging straps.
O'Brien's a little too bland as the lead and his hirsute haunted earlier incarnation in the film offers the most dramatic meat, which he does reasonably well with. But post the initial burst, the film turns him into a spiky arrogant know-it-all, a Johnny come lately whose rogueish sensibilities rarely backfire.
It's all so familiar and so predictable, that unfortunately American Assassin ends up being plodding and TV movie like in its execution. A truly laughable Battleship CGI finale wraps things up but leaves you feeling that this is more a missed opportunity than a geo-political thriller with some potential.
The titular American Assassin may never miss his target - but the adaptation of the first novel sadly does.