September 15, 2017

R: September 15th, 2017 | R: 112 minutes | R: R

Another action franchise is on the horizon as American Assassin makes its debut on the big screen. But it begs the question: do we really want another one? If the first installment in the potential series is any indication, the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.

On a romantic getaway to Spain, a violent terrorist attack completely changes the life of an American man as he watches his fiancée die right before his eyes. Forever scarred by this experience, he becomes a recluse who spends his days training to fight and contacting terrorist cells in the hopes of infiltrating them to exact his revenge. These activities land him on a CIA terrorist watchlist, where one agent finds a lot of promise in his unorthodox methods. After rescuing him from near death, the CIA offers him the chance to become an agent trained by a rugged and unconventional Cold War legend. As the two begin to train and understand each other, they are called to prevent a sinister plot to build and sell a nuclear weapon to Iran.

Action thrillers tend to lean on the more unbelievable, convoluted, and ridiculous side of the plot. But American Assassin somehow manages to outcompete its predecessors in ridiculousness almost to the point of parody. The plot of the film is horribly clichĂ© to the point of absurdity. Without a single hint of irony, it takes only a year and a half for the grief-stricken assassin to transform from a typical recent grad to become a fighting machine that speaks fluent Arabic, is a scholar on the Quran, and has communicated with a terrorist cell so extensively that they invite him on a weekend retreat with all their terrorist bros. All the while the film introduces a litany of one-dimensional characters whose straight- forward qualities get bashed into our heads over and over again. We get it – the main character is a rage-filled maniac who doesn’t follow orders. But somehow even as the movie shows him getting kicked out of an MMA gym for being a rage-filled maniac who doesn’t follow orders, one of the other characters then sits on screen telling us how he’s a rage-filled maniac who doesn’t follow orders. Followed by three other scenes showing him being a rage-filled maniac who doesn’t follow orders, just in case we didn’t get it yet. It’s almost impossible to think of a single character who had any deeper motivations other than the ones explicitly told to the audience. These qualities just don’t make for a compelling or interesting plot, even for a movie that is supposed to be about the action.

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Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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With the presence of real life violence at every turn, I typically turn to the movies for a dose of delusion. I like the idea that I can sit in a dark room for 2 hours and not think about the sad state of affairs that currently exists in our reality.

The opening scene of this movie plays like a horrific video clip on the news and that is a disclaimer, not a spoiler.

When Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) loses his brand new fiance to a terrorist attack, he dedicates his life's work to defeating them. After executing a mission to take out a powerful terrorist leader, Rapp is recruited into a program run by Cold War vet Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).

Described as a beast by his own boss, CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), Hurley will systematically weed out the weaker men in a series of tests by breaking them mentally. Rapp and one other make it through his maze of seemingly impossible tasks and are sent off to kill terrorists and chew bubble gum... and they're all out of bubble gum.

Meeting with Turkish agent Annika (Shiva Negar) in Istanbul, Rapp and Hurley will try to hunt down a dangerous operative played by Taylor Kitsch before he's able to start a world war.

If nothing else, this movie emphasizes the power of a beard. Without one, Dylan O'Brien looks like a member of One Direction in their heyday. What he does not look like? An assassin. So I guess he's the best assassin?

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Katie Katie (Contributor) is a cinephile and Chicago native who has been reviewing film for nearly a decade. Her heroes include Roger Ebert and Jay Sherman -- it stinks!
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