American Assassin: unoriginal, uninspired and lazy

Leonardo Paley

American Assassin is most likely the poorest attempt at the continual downfall that is the American spy film, a genre which has had its ups and downs in the past few years. Following the titanic rise of the Bourne franchise, the spy film has devolved into wannabe hard boiled paperback thrillers with intense shaky camera action. A few years ago, John Wick brought vivid colors and highly stylized action, bringing newfound excitement and joy back into a washed out genre. 2017 started out well, with John Wick 2 bringing back all of the well choreographed and explosive set pieces of the first film. Atomic Blonde struggled and ultimately fail to succeed as a good spy film, and now we have American Assassin.

In almost every way the movie comes off as a knock off of a Tom Clancy novel. Young man with “talent” joins the CIA, wants to kill terrorists, the Russians have plutonium and the Iranians want to nuke someone. With an Oscar win and several nods between the four writers of the film, Stephen Schiff (The Americans, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Edward Zwick (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Last Samurai), Marshall Herskovitz (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Last Samurai) and Michael Finch (Hitman: Agent 47, Predators), it’s especially disappointing they weren’t able to come up with a decent script for the movie. It’s not the first time the writers have collaborated, Herskovitz and Zwick have written sixteen different movies and shows together so far.

With American Assassin continually bogged down by long scenes of expositional dialogue, the film ends up feeling boring. The action is remarkably bland considering Marcus Shakesheff, who was the fight coordinator for the film, was also an active stunt performer and stunt coordinator for Wonder Woman, The Bastard Executioner and the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. 

Films like the Bourne series use highly interactive fights, in lieu of old Jackie Chan films, where every nearby object is a weapon to be used if the fight coordinator can be creative enough to incorporate it. Despite sometimes nauseating shaky camera shots, the action is alive and fulfilling as anything in the scene could be used as a weapon by Bourne. The John Wick movies use wide shots that capture the entirety of the fight, letting the audience not only see the fighting itself but everything around it to provide scale and excitement as we’re forced to process everything that’s going on at the speed that Wick does, involving the audience without them knowing it. Even Atomic Blonde used long takes to follow its fight scenes, cutting as little as possible to show the entirety of the brutality of the situations Lorraine continually puts herself in. American Assassin does none of these things. The action is boring and feels like every other generic action film you can think of.

With a poor story, weak action, and an overall boring feel to it, American Assassin is possibly the worst major action film of the year so far.

Sails: 1/5


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