My mind is awash with clichés. Let’s not mince words here. ‘American Assassin’ is a clichéd mess of a film based on the first in the Mitch Rapp book series by Vince Flynn. Flynn wrote 13 novels in the series before his death - three more have been released since under a different author. God help us all if there are 15 more ‘American Assassin’ films on the horizon.
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien, ‘The Maze Runner’) is on his way to some serious vigilante justice 18 months after the death of his fiancée at the hands of terrorists. Watched by the CIA, Rapp is eventually recruited by them mid-“justice” and accepted into a special and elite team headed by seasoned veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, ‘Birdman’). Their mission is to stop the assembly of a nuclear weapon after weapons-grade plutonium is stolen and sold to the Iranians.
Okay, let’s start checking things off the list: protagonist = damaged goods with a deceased love and while psychologically unstable his moral compass points due north. Tick. Harsh drill sergeant type who pushes all protagonists' buttons and whom you think hates his/her guts but he’s actually just making him/her a better operative. Plus he’s really good at telling them what a piece of shit they are yet is oddly motivating. Tick. Task force leader who keeps throwing protagonist in the deep end despite others telling them not to. Tick. Antagonist = always one step ahead. Knows all their moves. His identity is a big reveal to those on screen and someone has a personal connection. Tick. Obligatory double-cross. Tick. I just described about 50 other movies.
There’s nothing to separate ‘American Assassin’ from the many many many almost identical productions out there.
Aside from some cool hand-to-hand combat sequences, surprising gore and brutality, and an undercooked leading man, there’s nothing to separate ‘American Assassin’ from the many, many, many almost identical productions out there. This movie is doomed to be on a lot of people's “must watch” lists, but is constantly bumped further and further down by said list in favour of better or even just more enjoyable movies, until the end of time.