American Assassin – acceptable at best

Once again, your neighborhood movie columnist was between a rock and a hard place.

There were two new releases last weekend, and neither of them looked particularly interesting nor have either of them had any significant promotion on TV or in the paper. The movies Mother, starring Jennifer Lawrence, and American Assassin, starring Michael Keaton, were the two options. There was already one strike against the Jennifer Lawrence film, as the genre was horror, which I do not particularly care for, and as I understand many of you don’t either. Then a rash of political comments last week from Ms. Lawrence, suggesting that those of a particular political persuasion are not welcome at her movies closed the deal for me.

So that left the one option, which I am reporting on.

This is another in a (very) long line of “CIA thrillers,” featuring a (virtually) super human agent who manages to defeat half the world all by his lonesome, leaving a trail of total destruction and dead bodies in his wake. That whole genre should have ended with the Jason Bourne trilogy. They were brilliantly done and Matt Damon, as Bourne, was not only likable, but earned viewer empathy throughout all three. He became the benchmark for these kind of “super studs,” and no one has come close before or since, that of course is one man’s opinion.

American Assassin

Entertainment Rating: ★★

Rating: R: Violence and killings galore, prolific profanity, lots of “F” bombs, brief nudity.

Possible Oscar Nominations: None

Best-selling author Vince Flynn, created the character Mitch Rapp, and this movie is based on his first book about the agent, followed by many more. Flynn’s books never particularly appealed to me, and I had never heard of Rapp until I saw the film.

Dylan O’Brien stars as our hero, and Michael Keaton as Stan Hurley his immediate supervisor. This is a “boiler plate” CIA story, same old, same old. They, of course, are given license to kill, maim, torture, or otherwise destroy whatever is in their way, all in the pursuit of keeping our country and in some cases the world safe from the evil ones. This particular story has Rapp and Hurley hunting down a terrorist network who has managed to piece together a nuclear weapon. The viewer, of course, is supposed to be on the edge of their seat as the possibility of detonation gets closer, and the closer it gets the more folks who are killed and/or tortured in the pursuit. Mitch Rapp should easily have been killed a dozen times as the story races to its conclusion, but the bad guys never seem to shoot straight, and there you have it. After a time, despite the action, I was bored, I’ve seen it too many times.

If you like these kinds of action thrillers, you will most likely find this acceptable. Be prepared for constant profanity, lots of blood and guts, and mostly meaningless dialogue throughout. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Dylan O’Brien as an actor, although in fairness the script did not give him much flexibility. Michael Keaton on the other hand is, as always, the smooth, polished professional, and even with a limited script, manages to pull off a first class performance.

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