American Assassin doesn't bring anything new to the genre of spy thrillers, aside from Michael Keaton clearly having a ball whenever he's on screen.
Director: Michael Cuesta
Summary: A story centered on counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp, a CIA black ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley.
When you're diving into a genre where there are so many options for moviegoers to get their fill, you need to bring something unique. Whether it's a plot that goes somewhere new or some off-the-wall casting — there has to be something to set your movie apart from every other entry into the genre. And American Assassin ultimately fails to do so.
American Assassin is yet another post-9/11 spy thriller featuring an angry young man with a dead blonde girlfriend who wants to kill terrorists to make him feel better. It's a modern version of Batman, minus the fun gadges and plus some language and gore. The problem is that we've seen every scene that plays out in American Assassin in a million other spy movies over the years.
The backstory they give Mitch (Dylan O'Brien) is so generic the movie actually calls attention to it at one point. He's angry at the world because his girlfriend died in a terrorist attack. He's such a crazy person with such a huge death wish that he seems to think walking into a terrorist cell as a pretend ally is going to end well for him. In the real world, they would have sectioned him and left him to rot — but this is a world where that kind of instability makes you perfect to do the kind of missions where one wrong move can get everyone killed.
This isn't to say the movie is particularly horrible. It has every cliché in the book, but the acting is completely functional. O'Brien is just fine as Mitch Rapp, even if the screenplay doesn't seem inclined to give him much of a character. (Although Hollywood continues to keep trying to make Taylor Kitsch happen, and we all need to just stop.)
Michael Keaton is the MVP of the entire production as the grizzled veteran who is just so over most of this drama. The moments where he gets to really cut loose and chew the scenery are the high points, but they are hardly worth spending your hard-earned money on — not when you could see pretty much the exact same movie on any streaming service or rent it from Redbox for a tenth of the price.
American Assassin commits the cardinal sin of action movies: it's just boring. It's a plot we've seen before with characters that have been in a thousand different movies. Even if this is your genre, American Assassin isn't anything special. The only thing that is special about it is how quickly you'll forget you ever saw it.