American Assassin: A most lethal weapon

There’s a room with a half-dozen armed terrorists that need to be taken down.

It’s possible to slowly take them out one by one using stealth and smarts, or by just running in the room and shooting them all in the head.

“American Assassin” is the kind of movie that breaks down the door and shoots all the terrorists in the head.

With a name like “American Assassin,” it’s hard to imagine this hyper-violent, in-your-face action film doing anything else.

Based on the Vince Flynn novel of the same name, “American Assassin” follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brian), an average American whose obsession to slaughter bad guys begins after a terror attack claims the life of his fiancée.

He’s soon reined in by the Central Intelligence Agency and sent to train under legendary field ops handler Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), which leads to a globe-trotting mission of nuclear proportions.

O’Brien plays Rapp as an out-of-control missile, whistling around at rapid fire pace looking to destroy its target without hesitation. “American Assassin” doesn’t ask the young “Maze Runner” star to exert too much thought while taking on a room full of terrorists with reckless abandon.

O’Brien’s Rapp is a loaded gun with an itchy trigger finger ready to explode at a second’s notice.

And yet still, there’s a stoic calm about his performance in the quieter moments that almost belies a deeper emotion to Rapp, but those moments quickly fade out.

It’s become common for studios seeking out a grizzled old veteran to turn to Oscar nominee Keaton, because Keaton always delivers. “American Assassin” is no exception.

His Stan Hurley is a beleaguered, war-ravaged man tasked with weaponizing Rapp and turning him loose on indiscriminant bad guys with foreign accents.

There’s not much to the part, but Keaton is able to turn nothing into at least a little something, which is more than can usually be said about acting in action movies.

Most of the “baddies” are random, forgettable placeholders whose sole purpose is to kill and be killed.

The one exception is Taylor Kitsch, whose Ghost is the veritable Rapp predecessor gone rogue, thus fulfilling one of action films’ most cliché tropes.

In this regard, Kitsch essentially succeeds, but still has a hard time acting his way out of a paper bag. But given how little regard “American Assassin” gives to its enemies, this makes sense.

The success of “American Assassin” lies in its unforgiving, relentless action and director Michael Cuesta doesn’t disappoint.

From the opening moments, “Assassin” is a hyper-realistic, stunningly violent display of R-rated blood, guts and terror.

The film’s inciting incident, an attack at a tourist beach in Spain, is among the most graphic, horrifying displays of plausible violence seen on screen in some time. Given recent terrorist attacks, this opening will undoubtedly affect audiences in one way or another.

As “Assassin” progresses, the action becomes increasingly unrealistic and absurd as is to be expected in a typical genre film.

Here, the filmmakers rely on a large CGI-budget to accomplish massive set pieces on land, sea and sky in a bombastic finish that feels torn out of the pages of a bad James Bond script.

But even then, Cuesta ramps up the violence with a daringly, cringe-inducing torture sequence that will unsettle viewers.

There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking or special about “American Assassin,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not above average action fodder for those seeking an escapist adventure at the movies.

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