Michael Keaton can’t rescue dull American Assassin

American Assassin (2017) – Film Review

American Assassin film poster 2017

American Assassin film poster 2017

“Who’s driving the boat?” asks one character close to the climax of American Assassin – a paint-by-numbers adaptation of Vince Flynn’s 2010 book of the same name.

In case you weren’t sure with this film we’re firmly in 24 meets Death Wish territory with a heavy dose of Euro-thriller Taken thrown in but the story isn’t that inventive and the acting – aside from Michael Keaton – doesn’t shine.

Unfortunately, Dylan O’Brien is also unremarkable as Mitch Rapp, an American student who endures a horrible tragedy which inspires him to seek revenge after devoting his life to developing a particular set of skills.

He’s picked up by the CIA and joins a Black-Ops squad and his first mission takes him across Europe as the CIA track a missing shipment of enough stolen Russian Uranium to make a nuclear bomb.

Michael Keaton, fresh from a great role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, isn’t challenged in his performance as a tough as nails special forces instructor who tries to teach Rapp how to be a good Black Ops operative but is exasperated by a talented but unpredictable loose cannon who can’t take orders and always goes off piste during missions.

American Assassin has a rare 18 certificate due to the level of sadistic gory violence but the CGI gore and pointless torture scenes seem like someone got excited about a Jack Bauer style torture scene which seemed unnecessary against a plot which, while simplistic, fails to deliver much excitement.

If the intention was to try and get a young adult Hunger Games style audience in with the young lead actors then that failed and I’m not sure they could play the so-bad-it’s-good-card or claim any kind of superior performances.

Taylor Kitsch plays a forgettable villain who is looking to construct a nuclear bomb while we get a brief European travelogue through some recognisable locations but many nondescript places too – probably limited by the budget.

This film is supposedly one of a series of books whose rights have been bought but there’s definitely room for improvement if they decide to make another.

The ending in particular raised the ludicrous bar to 11 while still failing to be a satisfactory B-movie which was strange  given that it is clearly a straight to DVD action film which was accidentally given a decent budget – similar to that of the recent Hitman’s Bodyguard which at least had some cheap humour and some stellar star power to go on.

American Assassin (18; strong sadistic and bloody violence; 111 minutes)

Director: Michael Cuesta

Cast Includes: Michael Keaton, Dylan O’Brien, Taylor Kitsch, Scott Adkins, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet

Summary: AMERICAN ASSASSIN is a US action thriller in which a man is recruited to the CIA after his girlfriend is killed by terrorists.

Rating: ** (Passable brainless weekend entertainment but dull despite preposterous climax)