It’s so nice to hear that Dylan O’Brien is well enough now to be up and working. Better yet, he’s not put off from doing action movies, which is what put him in the hospital in the first place. A true inspiration, if you ask me.
The story looks like it’s about a young man who goes on a revenge rampage after his girlfriend is murdered in a terrorist attack. Picking up the ability to essentially kick ass, he locates and kills these bastards until he’s caught by a secret government agency that’s been following his exploits and wants to hire him for his skills. Then his instructor gets a shot of reality when a former student of his turns up as a terrorist himself and the instructor, our protagonist hero, and their team are sent in to stop him. Looks pretty standard as an action movie is concerned, but both O’Brien and Michael Keaton are great actors, so it might be worth it just for them.
Speaking of which, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Dylan O’Brien (DEEPWATER HORIZON , THE MAZE RUNNER , TV show TEEN WOLF [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE ), Michael Keaton (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING , FIRST DAUGHTER , MULTIPLICITY , and the upcoming DUMBO ), and Taylor Kitsch (LONE SURVIVOR , X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE , and JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE ). In support, we have Sanaa Lathan (NOW YOU SEE ME 2 , AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR , and BLADE ) and Scott Adkins (DOCTOR STRANGE , THE EXPENDABLES 2 , and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Michael Cuesta, known for KILL THE MESSENGER (2014) and 8 episodes of TV show HOMELAND (2011 – ongoing). RED FLAG!!! A grand total of four writers: Stephen Schiff (WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS , TRUE CRIME , and 8 episodes of TV show THE AMERICANS [2013 – ongoing]), Michael Finch (HITMAN: AGENT 47 , THE NOVEMBER MAN , PREDATORS , and the upcoming HANSEL & GRETEL: THE WITCH HUNTERS 2, no release date announced), and duo Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, both known for JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (2016), LOVE & OTHER DRUGS (2010), and THE LAST SAMURAI (2003). Composing the score is Steven Price, known for BABY DRIVER (2017), GRAVITY (2013), and ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011). Finally, the cinematographer is Enrique Chediak, known for DEEPWATER HORIZON, 28 WEEKS LATER (2007), and THE FACULTY (1998).
Overall, I’m looking forward to this. I may not enjoy this movie having so many writers attached, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
This is my honest opinion of: AMERICAN ASSASSIN
Eighteen months ago, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) was on vacation with his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega). He proposed to her and she said yes. But almost immediately after that happy moment, a group of terrorists open fire on the innocents. Katrina is murdered and Mitch is left for dead. Today, Mitch has been training his mind and body in hunting down those responsible, which catches the eye of the CIA. They bring him in for his raw and impressive skills and sent him to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), the trainer of a secret special ops unit called Orion, who need his skills to hunt down a former student of Stan’s: Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who is planning to build a nuclear bomb.
Aww yeah, son! Welcome back, O’Brien! This movie was bad-ass!
Let’s get the negatives out of the way. The story is pretty basic. All two of them. You read that right, there’s almost two stories here that don’t seem to connect very well. Mitch starts the story off looking for the terrorist group that’s responsible for his girlfriend’s death, then that story is pushed to the wayside so Mitch can help Stan take down whoever keeps stealing nuke pieces. Mitch’s backstory feels like it’s an excuse for the true plot to take place and I feel like there was a more sensible way to go about this. Since this movie is already sequel-baiting by the end credits, it would have been a better idea to keep his reasons for being a vigilante terrorist killer for the sequel instead of revealing that now. I only say this because I don’t know how the filmmakers could build on what’s already been established. By keeping his motivations a secret, you give an air of mystery about the protagonist, and in the sequel, when they’re ready to bring his story full circle, you reveal his motivations, and then his story carries weight. But what happens when you blow that load too early is you make Mitch look distracted and if there’s anything that Mitch’s character doesn’t seem like, it’s a dude who doesn’t get distracted.
Also, I really disagreed with how the villain was written. On the one hand, Ghost is an intimidating dude who is up close and personal with his kills, and he’s just as scary in a fight like Mitch, but I don’t think his motivations for going rogue are really that interesting. He was trained under Stan and the two apparently had a father-son relationship type thing. You know, the whole, “You trained me! You were like my father! And you left me out there to die!” thing. It’s like that. Here’s the problem. Even when the two are face-to-face with each other, you never get that impression from either actor, and I’m not ready to blame the acting. It was a writing issue, I think. They just seemed like two people with opposing opinions, not a father and son working out their problems or facing them. Ghost was a grown-ass man when he was in the Navy, and I can’t imagine that the two worked with each other for more than a few years. It would take much longer than that to develop a father-son relationship. And even if that were the case, Ghost knew what being in Orion was all about. Make a mistake, you don’t exist. You have your orders to follow and he didn’t follow them. He screwed up, so now he blames Stan for his own shortcomings. Having this father-son relationship actually strips away any bad-assery that the character was supposed to have, whittling him down to a crybaby bitch. So it’s kind of weird for that to be inserted in there and doesn’t really add any layers to either character, especially Ghost.
But enough with the bashing! Time to gush!
The action is really good here. It’s high energy, fast paced, looks brutal, there’s a lot of focus on MMA fight styles here. Take downs, leg grabs and the like. While the hand-to-hand fighting isn’t wasted, the gunplay is pretty awesome too. Lots of juicy violence. Every bullet that goes through somebody feels so impactful that you can almost feel the bullets going through your body too. That’s a hard feat to accomplish, so well done to this movie. The fight scenes involving blades of glass, virtual reality simulations that shock you if you hurt a civilian, a fight scene on a boat that hits every wave, it’s all really awesome.
But if the action movie’s action is up to snuff, then is that worth all the praise? Nah, bro, that’s just an action movie doing its job. It’s the characters that make the action memorable and this movie doesn’t disappoint in that. First up, I’m nominating O’Brien to play the role of Kyle Reese in James Cameron’s upcoming reboot of his Terminator franchise. He’s got the kick-ass soldier thing down to a tee and has a death stare that would make a grown man piss himself. Mitch is intimidating as fuck. A crack shot with a firearm, knife throwing, all virtually self-taught. While the character is always in some danger, no duh, you’re never truly worried about him because he’s too “off the charts” to be killed off by patsies and O’Brien’s intensity sells everything, from the loud action, to the quieter drama of a man pushing himself to seek revenge against those who deserve to die.
The rest of the supporting cast does well enough. Lathan has an amusing scene here and there, but if there’s anyone that steals the show, it’s Keaton. Holy shit, this might be one of his scariest performances ever, and that’s saying something considering he’s been Beetlejuice, Batman, and Spider-Man villain the Vulture in his career. When he flips a dude on his back and instructs how properly slice a throat, you get this sharp, icy chill surging through your spine at just how deadpan he delivers his lines. I felt myself sinking myself into my seat in hopes that extra inch would keep me safe from Keaton’s wrath. But more than that, and I’ll just end it with this… he bites a piece of a dude’s ear off… then proceeds to chew it in front of him, eyes widened like a horror movie cannibal! Need I say more?!
Not gonna lie, I wanna see this again. It was too fucking awesome for me to only see once. Yeah, the villain’s lame and the story sets itself up to be one thing then completely drops it for another, but the action is awesome, and the characters are pretty solid, especially Keaton, who is worth the price of admission alone, but arguably most importantly, it’s great to see O’Brien up and about again, kicking even more ass than before. I highly recommend this flick in theaters if you’re an action junkie.
My honest rating for AMERICAN ASSASSIN: 4/5