American Assassin ★★★

American Assassin is one of those films that the three star rating was made for. It's perfectly OK. Nothing too great but also nothing overly awful either, it's a formulaic, run of the mill, Jason Bourne/Homeland esque drama that's based on the popular Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn, which can be read in no particular order whatsoever and usually can be found on airport bookshelves. They're comfort reads for those who like a quick thriller read without putting too much thought into it, and it's a no brainer that the film would be very much more of the same, despite a rather impressive cast of Michael Keaton and Dylan O'Brien, who, despite his numerous shirtless scenes (don't play a drinking game with this movie, for the love of god), is actually pretty good and clearly has the makings of a talented actor.

I really want to see what happens if he finally gets a decent script, because so far, there hasn't been anything good for him that I've seen him roles-wise, yet. Both Thomas and Rapp are bland, forgettable characters, and even though Rapp may have multiple novels to his name, it's unlikely we're going to see them all adapted onto screen, as his character could have been named anybody else and it wouldn't have mattered that much. There's nothing distinctive about Rapp, and in this incarnation at least, he's just a wannabe Jason Bourne, of which this movie wears its influence from on its sleeve.

Whilst I did kind of feel a bit of sympathy for Rapp after his girlfriend is killed by terrorists in a harrowing, bloody opening scene moments after she accepts his proposal, his character quickly turns into a jerk and doesn't really feel memorable at all. There's nobody here with the staying power and the fact that I've already forgotten pretty much every other character's names in the time that it took me to get home from the Cinema (which is about an hour and fifteen minutes thanks to buses and traffic), shows you just how forgettable it is. At least Michael Keaton is having fun in his role as Rapp's ruthless mentor, but beyond that, nothing is worth mentioning - the villain is as bland and as generic threat as they come, and predictable right from the get go (turns out he was played by Taylor Kitsch, which is no surprise there). Female characters aren't treated especially well in this one as you would perhaps expect, and they're as consistently forgettable and full of cliches and stereotypes as the male characters were.

What surprised me the most about American Assassin is its 18 Rating. The film could have played it safe with a 12 or even a 12A (using UK ratings here), but instead tries to be as dark, violent and as edgy as possible. There's multiple torture sequences that would be uncomfortable if you hadn't seen them so many times before in other, better movies, and the gunning down of several innocent civilians in the opening scene makes for a harrowing opening, as you see bodies dropping left and right. The violence for the most part is kept down to earth (there's a line about stabbing people and how it's done differently from how the movies show), but for all its claims to do things differently from the movies, and it never has anything remotely original here. Fight scenes and twists are telegraphed before they happen, and any surprise in the plot is lost on the screen. It does have the added intensity of coming from an 18-rating, which makes for some fun action, but ultimately, everything is far too serious for its own good.

American Assassin follows the trend of bland and forgettable movies that start with the word American in their title. It may be fun for someone who has never seen a spy or action movie before, but there are far many better spy or action movies out there than this one to watch instead if you haven't. At the end of the day, it's a good way to kill some time, but don't expect anything more than that.

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