“American Assassin” is a novel adapted thriller action flick, from the best-selling book of the same name by Vince Flynn (deceased) in 2010. The film was written by Edward Zwick, Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch and Marshall Herskovitz. The flick has a heavy cast starring Dylan O‘ Brien ( “The Maze Runner,”) Michael Keaton (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,”) Sanaa Lathaan (“Love & Basketball,”) and Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter.”)
The screenplay is a modern-day intelligence based movie that focuses on the larger themes of home-grown persons that are affected by terrorist attacks and the aftermath of those grievances. The opening scene begins in Ibiza, Spain backdrop where Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) and his girlfriend share a very intimate moment on the beach.
The scene quickly changes dramatically as terrorists invade the beach and persons find themselves under a barrage of gunfire. What develops from this attack is an innate hatred for the terrorist cell that perpetrated the attack. The following months find Rapp learning Arabic and mixed martial arts, placing himself closer to the terrorist cell while being monitored by the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A).
Witnessing the tenacity and where with all that Rapp uses to infiltrate the organization, C.I.A Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Lathaan) recruits him to work for the organization. The team he becomes a part of is spare headed by Stan Hurley (Keaton). Hurley’s job involves preparing Rapp mentally for the world that he is about to step into, despite his inexperience and emotional instability.
The characters are fluid and ever-changing, as the movie progresses and shows the multifaceted ranges that the characters are capable of projecting. The main relationship between Keaton and O’Brien create a vibrancy that is unmatched with any other performance, outshining all others on screen.
This vibrancy is attributed to the tension that perpetuates itself on screen as their relationship is continually evolving and made the subject of the movie itself. Their relationship creates a bit of a hole in the movie where other character relationships are diminished, as viewers can’t see their value to the movie or care about them as integral parts of the movie.
The plot is not something that is original at its core but is presented in a completely different way. The plot is something that audiences can connect to in a post-9/11 world, where the threat of nuclear war and terrorism are themes regularly played out in the media. The type of familiarity is where the movie veers from others in the genre. It has the fast pacing of an action movie but devotes time to developing care for the main characters, and what motivates them.
Vesting an interest in the themes that are presented comes smoothly and with little effort on the part of the audience. It is gut-wrenching as it deals with love, grief, hatred towards the establishment and honor.
Audiences that enjoy Michael Keaton’s performances will thoroughly enjoy his range of acting here. It projects an extension of the character “The Vulture” he played in Spiderman Homecoming, as he is reserved and controlled most of the time but when pushed, explodes on screen with a volatility comparable to chemical reactions.
The plot as mentioned before presents a standard intelligence action formula, but it surprises viewers with twists and turns within the final act that were completely unexpected. It juxtaposes real-life scenarios where common sense and diplomacy must be undertaken to prevent disasters from occurring. As scenes ensue, a realization of how close the situations presented in American Assassin imitate real life.
This realization reveals that overall, the writers took the subject matter serious enough to develop the plot through its methodical use of imagery and emotional distress. Despite the serious tone, there is a lighter element underscored in the relationship that evolves between Keaton and O’Brien.
Ultimately this is the movie’s downfall as the remaining cast although, brilliant and talented, are underutilized and unable to create an extensive network for the characters to take part in. What is left in the wake of the underutilization is a personal myopic view of what is taking place, which proved to be the main point of contention for critics.
As of Oct. 1, with just over a month in theatres, the move had only grossed 44.1 million dollars compared to its budget of 33 million which is a proverbial drop in the bucket to the working hours and additional resources placed in this movie. Keenly enough it is projected in how other film critics have perceived the screenplay; IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes have scored the movie 6.6 and 33% respectively.
To be fair “American Assassin” provides a plot that has been hashed out several times over; however, what it presents to viewers in our superhero dominated theatres are the heroes amongst us, and those are persons that are willing to defend those whom cannot defend themselves. More often movies like this go unappreciated because of what’s similar with other films of the genre while negating what is fresh about them.
The final word: “American Assassin” provides a story viewers have heard but rarely ever see in such detail. The chemistry between the leads, beautiful landscapes back dropping most scenes, and an explosive ending gives a thrill ride that most viewers will enjoy.