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The Cinnamon Girl and I have very much been looking forward to American Assassin. The initial previews promised a taut thriller, with solid action and a couple of lead performances which could carry an excellent movie. They also pointed to a nuanced film that might have some philosophical depth to it.
As previews continued to churn out, our conceptions about the movie began to change (nuclear explosives? a rogue former protegee?) but we held fast the our anticipation, especially as it related to seeing Michael Keaton in what promised to be a solid role as a tough military man, intent on protecting America and training the next generation.
Good news: Keaton is great and steals every scene in which he is featured. His line delivery is wonderful – quirky and off center – so much so that the intensity he imbues in his Stan Hurley is utterly believable and totally magnetic. I bought Keaton in the role and wanted to know more about him than I did about Dylan O’Brien’s main character, Mitchell Rapp.
It is not that O’Brien is bad, he is simply not Keaton nor is he given much with which to work and, while an actor of Keaton’s ability can develop a character seemingly out of whole cloth, O’Brien is not in that league.
As the movie wore on (and that is the correct word, unfortunately), I wanted more of Keaton and less of… well… everyone and everything else.
Though the story was not particularly inventive (mentor’s old protegee and new protegee go up against each other – who will survive?), the action shifted all over the place from small situations to increasingly gigantic and increasingly hard to believe ones.
We’re in a tunnel! We’re in a hotel room! We’re in a car! We’re on a speed boat! We’re approaching a carrier group and… my God, is that a nuclear explosion?
Here is the thing, for a movie called American Assassin, there was a lot of action that did not feel covert. This was an over-the-top, superhero culture inspired extravaganza that I did not expect and the change from expectation to reality was not welcome.
While I loved Keaton’s performance (and he gets to chew some scenery here – literally) and was entertained by a set piece or two, the overall effect of American Assassin was far less than the sum of its parts, its violence, its action sequences and the many, many modes of transport the characters used and fought in and around.
Marginally enjoyable, utterly forgettable, this movie is a disaster without Michael Keaton. Actually, it is a disaster with Michael Keaton. Let us hope that his renaissance is not derailed by it.
AMERICAN ASSASSIN receives TWO PLANES, TRAINS and AUTOMOBILES out of a possible FIVE.