American Assassin

Writing MovieWRONGS

By Jim West

American Assassin

Directed by Michael Cuesta

Written by Stephen Schiff, Michale Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz

CBS Films really would welcome a hit film series much akin to the Jason Bourne series, but this film suffers from four writers trying to each bring something to a script, but overall nothing in this film is anything you haven’t seen before.  IT has so much foreshadowing that I felt I was shadow boxing the entire film.  The only saving grace is Michael Keaton.  More on the best scenes with him later in the review.

Here comes the spoilers.

The four writers have a lot of experience working television and some big films.  One worked on The American which I would welcome a tone more aligned with that show, but there is absolutely nothing covert happening in this film.  Everything is loud and out in the open.  There are scenes where Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is just staring at the target.  No subtlety or covert actions there.  The opening sequence of him losing his girlfriend is brutal and lends some credence to his convictions, but of course those must be beaten out o him in his training for a super covert elite CIA squad that only two people in the government know about…lol.  Sure.  The best scene is the one where Michael Keaton, who thank God they did not kill him off, shoots a gun and interferes in a knife training fight between Rapp and one of the other trianees. 

Of course being a less than two hour typical action film we get straight to the plot.  Old protégé of Keaton’s is on the loose and a nuclear weapon is in play.  Rapp soon is put into the field and hijinks ensue.  His first kill was much akin to the first kill for Daniel Craig’s first turn as Bond.  Messy, gritty, and not so efficient.  It takes literally the entire films runtime before Rapp finally lets his training and instinct take over.  Some would argue that is part of his character development, but here are the issues with that.  Ghost (played well by Taylor Kitsch), the former assassin protégé, missed a shot in the Turkish restaurant.  Wait, missing shots is something that these guys don’t do.  Recall that elaborate VR training sequence?  So Ghost who is the best Keaton ever trained missed a shot and hit a civilian?  Sure.  He is able to stab the Alpha male trainee that Keaton selected to be the redshirt of this mission without much a struggle?  Sure.  Ghost again later in a tunnel with a hostage misses another chance to shoot and kill Rapp when he hesitates.  Sure.  Ghost deciding to not stab Rapp repeatedly by instead using the back end of the knife to punch Rapp with?  Sure.  Cold blooded killers often make so many mistakes. Sure.  Four writers could not come up with better than this?  At this point I give up.  Rapp should not have been so lucky.  On the beach he caught two stray bullets.  The rest of the film he manages to dodge them all.  Sorry but 18 months training doesn’t do that for you.

How to fix this film?  If you want to be the new ‘Bourne’ series then do some of the things that make that series unique.  Be gritty.  Be rough.  Be brutal.  Let Rapp catch a bullet or two.  I saw him grabbing at the knife even before that final fight started.  Why let Rapp kill Ghost?  Why can’t a film leave a villain to live to a sequel?  Rapp was not better than Ghost…yet.  Let that develop into the next film.  Let Keaton train Rapp some more.  Rapp is still young and has a ways to go before becoming an elite killing machine.  End the film with a cliffhanger better than an elevator in Dubai.  No imagination.  Conceptually a good idea, but seems this might have been best left for a TV movie as it is. 

Michael Keaton is perhaps the ONLY saving grace for this film.  Do NOT kill off his character in ANY sequel.  Let me repeat that for the producers and writers; do NOT kill off his character in any sequel ever.  Keaton needs to train Rapp to progress more  as an elite assassin and I would welcome some writing that reflect the covert nature of the CIA.  More cloak and dagger please. 

Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.   

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *