American Assassin Review: Kicking Ass and Taking Names
In theaters this weekend is the high-octane, hold no punches spy thriller American Assassin starring Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. Mitch Rapp, played with pure intensity by O’Brien, is a man on his own mission when terrorists take the life of his beloved fiancé, leaving him with nothing but vengeance in his heart. Riding on the outskirts of the law but exhibiting exceptional skills, he is recruited to the CIA by Deputy Director Irene Kennedy, portrayed by a stoic Sanaa Lathan. She then enlists him in an intensive training program ran by Cold War Veteran Stan Hurley, a tough as nails Keaton doing what he does best. These two team up to take down one of Hurley’s own protégés going by the name Ghost, portrayed by a rough around the edges Taylor Kitsch, and Rapp uses his skills to prove he is a true asset to the CIA.
The opening sequence does an excellent job of setting the tone of this film and O’Brien’s vulnerability throughout helps you connect to Rapp right away. From there, the film moves rapidly which creates an uneasiness among its audience, making you feel as though you are apart of the action. The fight sequences feel realistic and grounded – I found myself covering my ears and jumping out of my seat more than once – and it’s evident a lot of training went into the use of firearms by its cast which I appreciated. Their weapons also didn’t feel like they had an endless amount of bullets, which happens so often in action films. The chemistry amongst the characters was very believable, especially the dynamic between Rapp and Hurley with some fine work done by both O’Brien and Keaton.
One of the strongest aspects of the film was their choice to cast Dylan O’Brien, who has proven to be one of the finest young actors in Hollywood today. He has a natural charisma and sincerity that works well for a character like Rapp and his looks and physique give the character a more relatable and endearing quality. When you think of an action film star O’Brien probably isn’t the first person that comes to mind, which makes Rapp much more intriguing than some of his film counterparts. Not only does O’Brien have the acting chops to carry a film of this magnitude, his unassuming presence and smaller build give Rapp more depth and the ability to get one over on his opponents. Not to say O’Brien didn’t get in great shape for this role, because he certainly packed on some muscle!
Michael Keaton was a perfect choice to portray Hurley and has wonderful onscreen chemistry with O’Brien. Keaton isn’t an easy actor to hold your own against so it’s no small feat that O’Brien was able to do so. Hurley is a multilayered character with a checkered past and Keaton exceptionally displays all the various layers to him. He also plays off Kitsch’s Ghost nicely, having Hurley show a slight imbalance and guilt in his presence. The rocky past between these two characters makes Ghost’s motivations all the more believable throughout the film. Kitsch does a nice job of boldly displaying the immense betrayal Ghost feels and how he is willing to stop at nothing to complete his mission.
While I did thoroughly enjoy the film overall, I found the climax to be slightly over the top and predictable. Without spoiling anything, the conclusion felt like something I’ve seen many times before and took away from the authenticity of the film. Until that point, the film felt very grounded – for the most part – and the use of CGI was glaringly obvious, which took you out of the moment entirely. I must admit I haven’t read the book series that American Assassin is based on, so I can’t say for sure if these events took place the same way in the book or not. Either way, it was a bit too generic for my taste, even if it was acted well.
American Assassin earns a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and I think this is a film that’s best seen in theaters. Please be warned, it has a hard R-rating and there are many violent sequences and adult language. This movie is not for the faint of heart but if you are an action movie lover like myself then this is the film for you.
★ ★ ★ ½ out of 5
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.