Film review: American Assassin – Yet another ill-timed terrorism thriller

Just what the world needs, another ill-timed terrorism-based thriller – you can almost hear the groans can’t you? It seems the movie-going public just can’t get enough of these accounts of urban terrorism.

Last year’s diabolical London Has Fallen inexplicably took over $200million at the box office and the better-received Unlocked also performed well commercially. All of this in spite of the constant threat posed by terrorism across the globe.

Now, there’s a new kid on the block. American Assassin. But does this film based on the novel of the same name do enough to be different?

When Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) takes CIA black ops recruit Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) under his wing, they receive an assignment to investigate a wave of random attacks on both military and civilian targets. After discovering a pattern of violence, Hurley and Rapp join forces with a lethal Turkish agent to stop a mysterious operative who wants to start a global war.

Michael Cuesta’s film is propped up by a nicely shot opening in which Dylan O’Brien’s Mitch comes up against Islamic terrorists while on holiday with his fiancé. Naturally, she’s brutally murdered and it becomes Mitch’s life-ambition to hunt down terrorist cells across the world.

Yes, you heard me right. That’s the plot. Ridiculous in every way and frankly, a little boring, American Assassin is a poor excuse for a film riddled with dreadful dialogue, phoned-in performances and uninspiring camerawork.

What makes it worse is that Maze Runner rising star Dylan O’Brien thought it would be a good idea to helm such a vehicle. He performs well but feels at odds with the film’s dark tone and is in serious danger of doing a post-Abduction Taylor Lautner and tanking his promising career. Michael Keaton’s bizarre effort here is the polar opposite of his genuinely menacing turn in Spider-Man: Homecoming only two months ago.

The rest of the cast might as well be made of cardboard they’re that uninteresting and while globe-trotting should evoke some visual joy, the scenery feels flat, hampered by a dull colour palette and the fact it’s been done to death already.

As American Assassin steamrolls to a 70s-esque Bond finale, we’re subjected to some torturous CGI, though Cuesta does well to ramp up the tension a little, but it’s the subject matter once again that proves a sticking point.

In a world where our fears of urban terrorism are greater than ever, should we be classing films like this as ‘entertainment’? Take the opening sequence for example, as nicely choreographed as it is, the parallels to the dreadful Tunisian beach attack of 2015 linger in the back of my mind and I find it all very much in poor taste.

Overall, American Assassin is yet another addition to the already overstuffed terrorism thriller genre that adds absolutely nothing new. The performances are dull, the story is flat and the cinematography is uninspired. Poor Dylan O’Brien left the Maze for this?

American Assassin rating: 3/10