American Assassin: A By The Numbers Thriller That Misses The Mark

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Michael Keaton is having a bit of a moment. Since his comeback in Birdman (or the overly long unnecessary name), he’s kind of stuck around.

And for good reason, he’s proving himself all over again after a sort of hiatus from popular films.

His latest, American Assassin, might potentially be his first stumbling block since his return to form.

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Based on a novel by Vince Flynn, the film has a fairly basic premise:

After the death of his fiancée at the hands of terrorists, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) gets assigned to a top counter-terrorist network, where he is trained by Stan Hurley (Keaton).

Rapp and Hurley are then dispatched to Turkey to take care of a major threat, where an old face surfaces…


All sounds very faux-Bourne. And that’s kind of what we’re given here.

The film starts promisingly enough with a maudlin proposal scene on an Ibiza beach, before quickly being catapulted into a deftly directed terrorist attack.

Despite plot holes even from the opening scene (how come everyone is running to the beach even though that’s where the terrorists are coming from?), Dylan O’Brien has enough charisma to carry through the first half of the film.

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As the film ventures more into the counter-terrorism world, the film stumbles.

Matters are discussed to within an inch of their lives, and no amount of foreboding music can inject drama into espionage scenes that we can’t help but feel we’ve seen ten times over.

Keaton, however, has a lot of fun with his role as Stan Hurley. A particular scene toward the end of the film sees him bite off part of someone’s ear.

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He then proceeds to chew the ear with a grim smile on his face, at which we couldn’t help but laugh.

There are some nicely choreographed fight scenes, though there’s really not much here in the way of real drama.

That’s the film’s main issue, in that it’s actually really difficult to get swept along in what’s happening, because everything is just so average.


We can’t help but feel like this is by the numbers. There’s really not much to shake up an already tired formula.

If you’re expecting a Greengrass-level thrill from American Assassin, then you’ll walk out of the theatre disappointed.