Review Roundup: Do Critics Think AMERICAN ASSASSIN is Killer?
AMERICAN ASSASSIN follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien), a CIA Black Ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a World War in the Middle East.
Before the action film is released in theaters this Friday September 15, the critics have voiced their opinions. Check out some of their thoughts below!
A.O. Scott, New York Times: It's also decent fun, in the leathery, businesslike, self-satisfied manner of this kind of movie, which soothes the hurt places in the male ego with sentiment strategically disguised as toughness. So far there are 16 Mitch Rapp novels in print - the series, begun by Vince Flynn, has been kept going by Kyle Mills after Mr. Flynn's death - and therefore plenty more of this kind of work to be done.
Amy Nicholson, Variety: AMERICAN ASSASSIN can't capture the grit in Flynn's intensely researched books, which President Bush once called "a little too accurate." (The author died of cancer in 2013.) Like Tom Cruise's REACHER films, the character's quick brain doesn't translate from page to screen. He's the strutting, silent embodiment of, "Come at me, bro," a generic goon except for the shaggy hair and stubble that makes him look like a drummer who got on the wrong tour bus. The script doesn't even try to give him an interior life; he's essentially born on that Spanish beach like a dragon from an egg, and his fiancée's sole character trait is "blonde."
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter: Director Michael Cuesta, operating more in the vein of his work on HOMELAND than such features as L.I.E. and KILL THE MESSENGER, proves impressively deft at orchestrating large-scale sequences. The globe-hopping story of covert U.S. operatives zeroing in on terrorist factions and renegade mercenaries clearly aims to separate itself from other popcorn spy thrillers based on airport novels. Yet even with its masterful set pieces and Michael Keaton's ferociously enjoyable turn as a badass CIA trainer, chances are that you'll have stopped thinking about it by the time you exit the theater.
Allen Salkin, New York Daily News: Yes, take this this ride. Without spoiling, I'll say I have some lingering concerns about collateral effects along a certain ancient coastline which were not addressed before credits rolled. But I was also left thinking O'Brien would make a great Bond. AMERICAN ASSASSIN hits the spot.
Sandy Cohen, Associated Press: As often happens with these international thrillers, plot holes are compensated for with action and spectacular settings. AMERICAN ASSASSIN takes viewers to Italy, Romania, Poland, Libya and Turkey, along with various locations in the U.S. But Rapp is an interesting guy, and AMERICAN ASSASSIN is his origin story. Unfortunately, in setting up for a sequel, the film's ending goes too far, essentially trading Rapp's newly established gravitas for superhero shtick.
Tom Russo, Boston Globe: If you can get past the blunt jingoism and preposterous renderings of government intelligence protocol, AMERICAN ASSASSIN is a political thriller that explores some provocative ideas. Operatives recruited for their hate-fueled relentlessness. The hazards of a counter-terrorism strategy hinging on fighting fire with equally fanatical fire. They're hot-button themes examined in graphic style. Trouble is, the movie's dopiness isn't in fact something you can get past. "American Assasinine" is frequently more like it.
Todd Gilchrist, The Wrap: As Rapp's mentor, Keaton sinks his teeth into Hurley's no-nonsense, at-any-cost training methods, and almost makes us believe he really doesn't care about the foot soldiers he's sending off to stop America's enemies. It's a role unlike anything we've seen from the actor, and he injects humor and ice-cold indifference in compelling measures that distinguish Hurley from similar characters played by his contemporaries...Nevertheless a suitably exciting action film that probably takes itself a little too seriously, AMERICAN ASSASSIN works best when it's trying to replicate the rhythms of a pulpy page-turner and least when pausing to consider the deeper implications of politics and personal responsibility in a post-9/11 world.