American Assassin features an effervescent, but brutal, opening as Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien – The Maze Runner) is on a Spanish beach with his love, Katrina (Charlotte Vega), and about to pop the question when, out of the blue, terrorists open fire in the holiday resort, taking casualties everywhere they go. For a scene so blisteringly intense, it instantly reminds you of the horrick beach attack on Sousse, Tunisia, in 2015.
Over the course of the next 18 months, on his own, and with the feeling of nothing left to lose, he goes off the rails and decides the way to solve life’s problems is to head to Libya and take out the head of the terrorist organisation who ruined his big day. However, because ‘Big Brother’ is always watching us, the CIA are tracking him and – before long – hire him to take out other bad guys, since he’s the best of the best…
He has skills that cannot be taught, and which only were only drummed into him following his terrible ordeal and making him forever question why he was allowed to survive.
So, in losing a loved one and being in constant emotional pain, there’s a bit of Lethal Weapon in there, but when it starts to get a bit silly – as these sorts of films often do – it also drags over to Lethal Weapon 3, at the time when Riggs seemed to forget *why* he’s a Lethal Weapon, and it just turned into a silly action comedy.
Meanwhile, there’s great locations, a fair few scenes when everyone talks too quickly – meaning a fair bit of dialogue slips by, so I’ll definitely have to catch this again on Blu-ray, but with subtitles; and when one character refers to the “Russian Plutonium situation” around 1/3 of the way in, you know they’re explaining the plot, as to what Mitch’s main task in this film will be.
Cast-wise, Michael Keaton gets a decent supporting role as Mitch’s hard-as-nails trainer, Stan Hurley, while Taylor Kitsch makes for a decent baddie, and Alien Vs Predator‘s Sanaa Lathan is CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy, playing second fiddle to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him David Suchet topping up his pension as her boss.
So, what starts with one of the most shocking opening scenes I’ve witnessed, eventually sinks a little into the “Hey, I’m a good guy, so let’s kill all the bad guys” kind of film.
Still, the most refreshing thing about this movie – and one reason I went to support it at the cinema, even if a lot of people didn’t at the time I saw it (possibly because Stephen King’s IT is pretty much the only game in town, at present), is that the studio have allowed an uncut 18-certificate, which is such a rare occurence in UK cinemas. It’s clearly as a result of the devastating opening scene, but there’s no way you can cut round that to get a 15-cert, without severely trimming it down and losing the impact.
As an aside, Dylan O’Brien shows he’s no longer the kid in The Maze Runner, as now he’s all beefed-up, so after that series stalled after the second movie, with no sign of a third having been coming for a long time, if they do continue that series, will they have to replace him, since he’ll be all grown up? Oh, well, it seems the third film, The Maze Runner: The Death Cure, has been scheduled for early February next year… which is the dumping ground for non-awards movies. And if it was any good, we’d have a trailer by now.
Back to this film, though, and since I don’t read books, I wasn’t aware that this is based on one of a quintet of Mitch Rapp titles. No doubt, if this one makes enough, more will follow. It deserves it more than most films. Then again, on a $33m budget, it’s only grossed around $20m worldwide in the opening weekend.
Running time: 112 minutes
Studio: Lionsgate UK Ltd
Cinema: Odeon, Trafford Centre
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Released: September 14th 2017
Director: Michael Cuesta
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler
Screenplay: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Vince Flynn and Marshall Herskovitz
Music: Steven Price
Mitch Rapp: Dylan O’Brien
Stan Hurley: Michael Keaton
Irene Kennedy: Sanaa Lathan
Ghost: Taylor Kitsch
Annika: Shiva Negar
Adnan Al-Mansur: Shahid Ahmed
Orion Instructor: Michael Wildman
Victor: Scott Adkins
General Rostami: Joseph Long
Katrina: Charlotte Vega
Director Stansfield: David Suchet
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.