"Wounds with Scar Tissue"
A Review of "American Assassin" by Nathan H. Box
Director: Michael Cuesta, Writers: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan
Rating: 3 Stars, STREAM
"American Assassin" opens on a beautiful beach in Spain. A lovely young couple is swimming. Today is a big day in their relationship. Mitch Rapp played by Dylan O'Brien is about to propose to his longtime girlfriend. As an audience member, we get to be there for the celebration. As she says yes, we feel Mitch's love and joy. To remember the occasion, the whole event is captured on a cell phone; forever documented. Mitch then decides to swim away for a couple of drinks to mark the moment. As he orders, the sound of gunfire erupts on the tranquil beach. As Mitch ducks for cover in a pool, he rises to see his now fiance shot and killed in cold blood. This loss of love and innocence sends him on a path of revenge and vigilantism.
Naturally, Mitch has wounds with scar tissue. His physical wounds heal over the next 18 months but the emotional trauma is still there. As time elapses, we find a young man training his body and mind for something bigger. He is digging deep into terrorist organizations and pretending to be a member in an effort to get closer to the man who took everything from him. Of course, in a predictable sort of way, every move he makes is being monitored by the CIA. When Mitch finds himself in Turkey, face-to-face, with the man he has been chasing for almost two years, it is quickly realized he will get no satisfaction in killing the mastermind of the Spain beachfront killing. Instead, the CIA sweeps in to claim victory.
With this chapter in Mitch's life closed, a new door opens. The CIA sees within him a real ability to be a civilian asset on the ground and in the global fight against terrorism. Now, I am not sure how much time the CIA spends tracking lone wolves destined to stop terrorist cells but this whole process is one of the most unbelievable aspects of the entire movie. Still, I decided to swallow my disbelief and allow things to play themselves out.
Here is where we meet Stan Hurley played by Michael Keaton. Hurley is a no-nonsense trainer of special CIA agents. As we learn later in the film, he has a tangled past which will bring him face-to-face with a former student and agent in the field. At first, he doesn't see much promise in Mitch. He sees someone who is volatile, doesn't take orders, and has joined his team for all the wrong reasons. Of course, in the most Hollywood way imaginable, Mitch proves him wrong, except the whole going rogue thing. Mitch still does that. In fact, that's all he does.
In the field, we encounter a Mitch who uses revenge as a strength. Where normal men and women would fall, he draws on his pain to accomplish the task before him. This is also where he derives his patriotism. To face the new enemy before him, he will need all that strength. See, Taylor Kitsch plays Ghost. He is a former trainee of Hurleys. After being left for dead in the field, he feels abandoned by his country. After enduring torture, he too finds himself seeking revenge. Thankfully, the Iranians are looking to acquire plutonium for a nuclear missile. Ghost uses this exchange to steal the weapon and sets in motion a plan to destroy a fleet of Navy ships off the coast of Italy. This is where Ghost and Mitch come together in a race against time. From here on out, this movie plays out in spectacular fashion. Most of which I can't speak about without giving away the ending.
Despite it taking me five paragraphs to explain the plot of this movie, I found it to be too simplistic. As an audience member, you are asked to believe a lot of unbelievable events. Also, events, their cause, and the next steps of the bad guys are figured out much too easily; which is the biggest complaint I have with movies such as this. The acting in the film is subpar with no one giving much of a stellar performance. Even Keaton, who I adore, seems to just be there barking orders and commands. Ghost's reasoning for seeking revenge against his homeland is weak at best. Much of the dialogue leaves something to be desired. Still, this is a movie worth seeing. I would just wait until you can watch it in the comfort of your home.
Be good to each other,