Dan Bremner’s review published on Letterboxd:
Every year or so we get a violent mid-budget action film that is so generic and serviceable, but also so mean-spirited with its gratuitous violence that it just works for me. A few years ago we had Olympus Has Fallen, then its sequel London as Fallen and now American Assassin has joined the league of films about white Americans brutally slaughtering faceless foreign terrorists.
Like the Olympus films, American Assassin wears its violence like a crown. The brutal violence and torture was so nasty and brutal, which is a rarity these days (It even got that fabled 18 rating in the UK. Which had me intrigued before watching it).
This film pulls no punches with its violence, people are stabbed and shot with pretty graphic injury detail and messy blood splatter, It's kinda glorious. I do question the films weird hatred of civilians though. This has some of the most collateral damage I've seen from a film in a while. Again, like the Olympus films.
While American Assassin certainly delivers on its promises of horrific, well shot and graphic action, it definitely lacks in character. Dylan O'Brien's 'Mitch Rapp' is kind of an asshole. A brutally sadistic white American who slaughters his way through countless people to get his revenge after the death of his girlfriend in the films opening terrorist attack.
Mitch is a character you can get behind, his motivations are sound enough, it's just he's a bit of a dick. Reckless, hot-tempered and doesn't take orders very well. He's quickly recruiting by the CIA to help stop a terrorist attack, which is a shame. As there's a much more interesting story here about a one-man killing machine who goes on a rampage through terrorist cells while seeking revenge.
The main plot itself is actually compelling enough to hold the film. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but it works and it's helped along massively with a really fun supporting turn from Michael Keaton, who has a blast and some of the best lines of the film with some really dark humour. I was half expecting them to kill him off really early, but thankfully he stuck around and we may see more of him if this franchise gets picked up.
Things get murky with the villain. I had no idea Taylor Kitsch was even in this and I was very confused as he looked very similar to Dylan O'Brien at times. His character's motivation gets into some messy politics and doesn't make the most sense. He's just someone who wants revenge on the US government, but seems to take his anger out on shooting random civilians in the street.
It's not perfect, it's far from amazing, but if you have an itch for some brutal violence with no bullshit shakey-cam and a serviceable story, well, then American Assassin will be exactly what you're looking for.