Friday 15 September 2017

"American Assassin" (Guardian 15/09/17)

American Assassin *
Dir: Michael Cuesta. With: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet. 111 mins. Cert: 18

The malfunctioning studio system has foisted many subprime ideas upon us recently, but this opportunistic, Trump-age hybrid of war-on-terror drama and YA fantasy numbers among the junkiest. Ex-Maze Runner Dylan O’Brien plays Mitch Rapp, an emotionally volatile sort picked up by the CIA after pursuing the sleeper cell who gunned down his holidaying fiancée in one early breach of basic cinematic decency. Thereafter he’s assigned Aviator-sporting ex-Navy SEAL mentor Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, bent once more towards career self-sabotage), passed through whizzy VR training exercises, and dispatched to Europe alongside a babelicious colleague to recover a stray nuke while generally kicking ass for the US of A. As Hurley growls it: “Some bad people plan on doing some bad things, and it’s our job to stop ‘em.”

Director Michael Cuesta, formerly known for filigreed indies (L.I.E., Kill the Messenger), has perhaps concluded there’s more money in becoming a back-up Michael Bay, but his chosen moves here are blunt from overuse. Everything about American Assassin – Hurley’s jurisdictional squabbles, the actress roped in to bare breasts before perishing, unmourned, amid a hail of bullets – looks to have been copy-pasted from some Commie-bashing Chuck Norris opus of 1983, while the risible bomb-on-a-boat finale dates back beyond even Keaton to Adam West-era Batman. O’Brien demonstrates admirable deltoids and an ability to grow stubble as the character arc requires, but the attempt to rebrand counterterrorism manoeuvres as a heady extension of the Hunger Games falls somewhere between dim-witted and deeply cynical. Recruitment numbers can’t be this low, surely? 

American Assassin opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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