‘American Assassin’ is cloying but watchable
“American Assassin” is a new film currently available to watch at our very own Embassy Cinema in Waltham. It’s a popcorn flick that doesn’t demand much from its audience. The action is standard, the acting is serviceable and vistas are polished to the extent that the film looks too perfect (as is now expected 2017 movies). It might also be one of the only “pure” 2017 action movies, excluding the comic book genre. With “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Justice League” and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” coming out this fall, a good old-fashioned shaky-cam fight might just take the taste of oversaturated, CGI-riddled action out of your mouth.
Dylan O’Brien, who plays the titular assassin, performs serviceably in this flick. While I don’t associate him with the leading man of a film (other than the “Maze Runner” series), I found that he held his own and showed commitment to the film’s action sequences. However, this concern might have been why Michael Keaton was hired to help him drive the story with him. Keaton plays a slightly muscular but just as intense version of himself, as a Navy SEAL training assassins for the CIA. He manages to keep a straight face in the first two thirds of the film as both the rigid mission supervisor and the teacher from hell at the assassin training however, his decorum falls apart in the third act with some unintentionally hilarious deliveries during an interrogation scene that only work because he is saying them (think Beetlegeuse or his Bruce Wayne).
The biggest fault in this film has to be the horrendous dialogue. Not since “those aren’t birds, they’re f***ing ants” from “Kong: Skull Island” have I heard such bizarre phrases.
Throughout the movie, the antagonist searches for a man to convert his stolen weapons-grade Plutonium-239 into a nuclear warhead, yet all he says about it is “I have to go buy a physicist.”
Disregarding the ridiculous notion of “buying a physicist,” it is very distressing that the FOUR screenwriters for this film implied that all you need to build a nuke is to find a man with a degree in physics. Not nuclear physics, mind you, just physics. If you know how a fulcrum works, be careful of the many terrorist cells approaching you for recruitment. The subtitles for translations weren’t even correct! As someone who speaks Turkish, I was able to understand the exact meanings of each line spoken on screen by a Turkish person. At one point, the subtitles read “don’t kill me” when the man had actually asked “what are you going to do with that sock?” It’s this lack of attention to detail that deters me from these filmmakers’ future endeavors.
All kidding aside, the first act of this film was setting up a good concept and interesting plot. However, once the first action sequence in Istanbul terminated, the story went downhill, and the dialogue somehow got worse. I truly believe there is a great action movie buried somewhere on the cutting room floor for this film; a kind of Jason Bourne-type action flick.
Unfortunately, one must overuse his or her suspension of disbelief when watching the absurd sequences in the final two acts.
Overall, I would give this film a C-. All of the terrible dialogue aside, I found the flick to be quite enjoyable if you turn your brain off and just have a good time. You might giggle here and there at Michael Keaton or his undercover spy assistant, but it’s still as intense and thrilling as what you would expect. However, if you want a truly great spy film, I advise you wait until next week for “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” the highly anticipated sequel to the very fun “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It’s only a few more days away. Go out on your holiday weekend and be entertained by (most-likely) the best spy film of the year.
It might be another one of those standard CGI-riddled action films we’ve come to expect nowadays, but the series is well-written, the director is reliable and all of the actors are pedigreed and intentionally funny.