Tuesday, 19 September 2017
American Assassin is a ridiculous film. Rife with stupidity, unpleasantness, xenophobia, jingoism, characters doing totally illogical things, horrible dialogue, mind boggling plot holes and an ending that will drop your jaw at its silliness. But you know what? I quite enjoyed it.
Mitch Rapp is living his best life until it gets snatched away from him in the blink of an eye. He wants revenge and his training regimen catches the eye of the CIA. Soon he finds himself in a covert task force who's job is to kill the bad men of the world.
In spite of its many many faults I liked this. Ok no, like is a strong word. I enjoyed it. It's a throwback to the films I and many others my age grew up on and still go back to occasionally. It's good to see the spirit of 80's and 90's action still lives on. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy Commando and Universal Soldier and True Lies. It's silliness brought a smile to my face. It's no holds barred approach to bloodletting satisfied my inner teenage gorehound. It's no nonsense approach to problem solving ie shoot em in the head and let god sort them out, appealed to the Chuck Norris/Steven Seagal fanboy inside of me. It's a piece of utterly adolescent wish fulfillment and for that I enjoyed it.
But not enough to totally overlook it's faults.
It's insanely stupid in places. The big climax. So....many....questions. So many fucking questions that I can't go into with spoiling anything so I'll say one word. Idiotic. It also does something that should have been left in the 80's and 90's. The whole MIDDLE EASTERN FOREIGNERS = BAD thing. These days that just leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. It's crass and it's a trope that needs to be dropped. Thankfully the identity of the main baddie of the film slightly softens that edge of the film but still. Also the fact that baddies still insist on telling their plans to the good guys when they should be just shooting them. The fact that bad lads can't shoot for shit. The absolutely pointless dog scene that should have had 'Deleted Scene' written all over it. That good guys can climb 5 floors up the side of a building with no equipment. The idea that huge government agencies will hire people because they have a good feeling about them. I could go on all day. It's also quite unpleasant in places. I've no problem with violent action but torture scenes kill me. This film contains a couple of them. One very gratuitous in nature and one that left me feeling quite oddly towards a main character. You'll know it when you see it. It felt wrong and too nasty. Other things were the groan inducing dialogue but thinking about it that actually added to the 80's/90's vibe.
There's a lot of bad, but there's still plenty of fun to be had. Michael Keaton as the Mr Miyagi of the film is great fun. He's always dependable and gets to display some of the madness he became famous for in his 1980's films. One scene late in the film made me retch and laugh at the same time. Dylan O'Brien as the main character Mitch wasn't bad either. His baby face made me doubt his believability at first but once the action kicked off he displayed a nicely gritty edge that made him that bit more convincing. UK martial artist Scott Adkins appears briefly too. He's convincingly gruff and briary and I hope some day he gets a big break. He deserves it. Saana Lathan and Shiva Negar add a welcome respite from all the testosterone on display. Negar especially does well with a convincing physicality and adds a much needed touch of warmth to the film. It's also quite Bond-ish in its globetrotting. From lovely sandy beaches of the Basque country to the streets of Rome and Tripoli to the glorious vast woodlands of middle America. It's all quite competently directed by Michael Cuesta. He's not a director who goes in for the silly shaky cam of the Bourne films. The action is well shot and easy to make out. Always a plus. I also mentioned the film's crunchiness earlier. This is a film that is not afraid to make you wince. Ooofffff. It earns it's 18 certificate in the first 3 minutes and doesn't stop. I admire a film that isn't afraid to tone itself down to appeal to a wider audience. Apart from the torture stuff. Me not like.
Look, here it is. Don't bother going if you are looking for meaning or anything deeper than a knife wound ( loads of those in this, eeek). But if you're looking for a silly way to pass a couple of hours this will do you fine.