American Assassin 1.5 out of 4 stars
By Kyle Osborne
True to its literal title, ‘American Assassin’ gets right to the point, as vacationers on a pristine beach are mowed down by gunfire from an apparent Muslim terrorist cell. The body count in the first five minutes numbers in the dozens, but the only victim the viewer is meant to care about is Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), who, only moments before, has proposed to his beautiful girlfriend. Her gratuitously bloody, lethal gunshot to the chest has a profound effect on Mitch, who dedicates himself to vengeance in the most personal way—somehow wrangling his way into Libya to take down the shooters who killed his future wife.
What Mitch may not have known is that he’s been under the watchful eye of the CIA, specifically, Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan in a role far beneath her talents). Kennedy sees some potential in Mitch and gives him an offer he can’t refuse: go to a black ops boot camp and train for a mission to really take down some bad guys.
Michael Keaton plays Stan Hurley, a veteran spook/assassin who trains Mitch and a few others to kill with ease. Keaton chews scenery in his Batman voice, spitting out deliciously corny lines, and taking his boys overseas to kick some butt. And, you know, to do some assassinating and stuff.
There are some fun locations and frequent globe-trotting (Italy, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few) but almost nothing happens in “American Assassin” that you haven’t seen before and seen more expertly executed.
No one can deny the sheer charisma of Keaton, but he isn’t given anything that feels authentic to do. In fact, the whole film devolves into unintentional laughs and hoary devices that range from missing plutonium, to a villain who wants to destroy the world (Taylor Kitsch) to a femme-fatale whose accent is a dead-ringer (no pun intended) for Dracula.
The climax even involves a countdown clock! That’s not a spoiler–if you’ve seen ‘Austin Powers,’ you’ll notice that ‘American Assassin’ is missing none of the clichés the genre has to offer.
Except sharks with lasers.
American Assassin is rated R (for strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity)
Run time: 1 hour, 51 minutes