A close call for Michael Keaton as he floats himself toward the cheap and shoddy action genre. Audiences could’ve lost a good on there, like they did with Bruce Willis all those years ago when he traded his quality for quantity and his artistic credentials for the credit of cash in hand values, scuppering the chances of ever seeing him in anything of interest anytime soon. We held onto Keaton as though he were a prime cut, and considering his loss at the Academy Awards way back when, it seemed almost natural that fear would grip him and he would cash in his chips with American Assassin and features just like it.
Who could blame the man, he was robbed and fobbed off by the ceremony that is meant to celebrate the talents of his calibre, the performers who produce the goods so great that audiences can’t help but chant the names of the stars that shine so bright. American Assassin doesn’t offer that. It cannot come close. Even though the quality is lacking American Assassin does boast a handful of surprises primarily because it convinced David Suchet to appear when all he ever did, does or needs to do is pop up as Hercule Poirot on the television from time to time. How he was roped into a project that has no desire for conscious storytelling and poorer aim than the vague henchmen that feature is strange.
Stranger still is Dylan O’Brien’s leading role. Shot at and up on holiday by terrorists in a terrifying bit of beach-based action. It is a disgusting barrage of action and terror that will strike close to the hearts of a desensitized audience not through passionate showcases of horrible dynamics but through the butchering of characters never introduced formally in their scantily clad beachwear. Sex sells and so too do the bodies that litter the beach in a feature that has a predilection for violent stereotyping, pushing the fold of nothing but the drab idea that people can make a difference shirtless in their bedrooms speaking of vacations as code for espionage.
As sick as it may be it is a poorly formed bit of action fodder through and through. American Assassin offers no deserving treatment of any of its meanings or points of interest. It is a tale of anger and vengeance, but that is dished out in the first fifteen minutes. What follows is a boring bit of bureaucratic shaking and shivering. Agencies that were shrouded in darkness coming to the forefront to recruit a man whose only drive is avenging the death of his one-line lover, mowed down on a beach that audiences spent four minutes on. How that and the hunt for a terrorist leader leads Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) to the undergraduate training programme of a Cold War specialist (naturally played by a dull-looking Keaton) is one of the many plot holes American Assassin cannot answer. Low-budget action on a multi-million-dollar project. A rare one, considering these projects are usually strung together with sheer willpower and legendary names alone, but American Assassin had the budget to be something. Instead, it feels like a dreary doorstop item that’ll do nothing to expand the genre it so uncomfortably slots into.