The well made, enthusiastic “American Assassin” feels crafted to appeal to the “rah-rah for ‘Mericuh” set but thankfully is more than watchable for the rest of us. If you’re looking for exciting escapism that’s packed with bloody violence and well choreographed fight sequences, this one delivers.
When a group of terrorists guns down his fiancée at a swanky beach resort, Mitch (Dylan O’Brien) vows to deliver his own brand of revenge by infiltrating a terrorist cell in the Middle East. Over the course of a year, he becomes a one-man stabbing, shooting, biting, bare hands killing machine. Once the CIA catches wind of this vengeful young man they approach him to join their super elite black ops team, and the hotheaded Mitch begins top secret training with grizzled ex-Navy SEAL Hurley (Michael Keaton).
O’Brien is cast well here and makes a pretty damn good young action star, racing around and falling and throwing deathly punches with confidence and flair. He’s believable as an anti-terrorism hero, a rogue young man with nothing to lose. Unfortunately this is far from Keaton’s best work, but at least the two men play well off each other.
What makes this film such an unexpected surprise is that it packs in far more ‘action movie’ than ‘dramatic espionage suspense.’ At times I had no idea where the story was headed, which kept things interesting through the plot’s hokey timeline, the unpleasantly racist hero, and the laugh out loud overacting delivered by the film’s big name star.
There’s a lot of information crammed into the story (this movie is based on a series of spy books by Vince Flynn), but it feels like the very best elements from each novel were condensed into one slam-bang action packed thriller.
Director Michael Cuesta doesn’t shy away from showing blood-spattered violence, a relentless, unflinching brutality that may make some folks cheer but encourages a deeper reflection by more sophisticated moviegoers.
Don’t mistake this for high art masquerading as pulse-pounding popcorn escapism, but there are some serious issues of morality simmering underneath all the bloody gunplay.