American Assassin

Sunday, July 29, 2018

If your fiance was murdered in front of you in a brutal terrorist attack, what would be a reasonable reaction? You’d certainly experience a prolonged period of grief. You’d probably suffer some serious PTSD. You might even abuse alcohol or drugs or even try and kill yourself.

But would you turn into a James Bond figure and try and take out entire terrorist cells single-handed? Yeah, that might be a stretch.

American Assassin could possibly work as some sort of incredibly over the top fantasy fulfillment flick. But instead it’s a boring, cliched, utterly joyless piece of sludge. People smash each other in the face and blood splatters all over the lens, but it’s neither hard hitting nor exhilarating.

I knew this film was in for a rough ride when Michael Keaton turned up and started being all...Michael Keaton. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fine actor, but he can very easily descend into some lazy, annoying ticks. He has a default crazy mode that he can switch into if he’s not feeling very inspired, and he’s certainly lacking inspiration here.

Keaton’s character has the less than enviable task of turning some milk toast pissant, Jason Bourne wannabe into, er, Jason Bourne. Cue yelling, beating and various boot camp shenanigans. But Keaton’s character is neither Gunnery Sergeant Hartman nor Obi-Wan Kenobi. He just seems to be in a bit of a bad mood all the time, but for no real discernible reason. Maybe he can’t get decent coffee or maybe he rewatched Jack Frost. But no sooner has he started yelling at Baby Bourne than they’re traipsing over Europe.

The plot plays like Donald Trump’s wet dream. Some Iranians, pissed off with their government’s nuclear deal with the US, decide to secretly build their own nuclear bomb so that they can attack Israel. You see, Trump told us that it was a bad deal! Fucking Obama trying to stabilize shit. We should have preemptively nuked those fuckers in case they tried some shit later on down the line.

Complicating matters is the fact is that the building of the nuclear bomb is coordinated by another American assassin. And would you believe it, but he’s an ex pupil of Michael Keaton.

This American assassin gone bad is made out to be like the fucking Darth Vader of assassins. He’s just too good but he’s evil as shit. But then he turns up and he’s just an annoying kid with daddy issues. Apparently Keaton’s character acted like this kid was the second coming or something. He bigged him up and inflated his ego. Somewhere along the line, though, things went bad and zzzzzzz....

Oh no, was it a hard job killing people for a living? Was it not quite as easy as it seemed? Now that’s a surprise. But yes, take all of your bitterness and help to create a nuclear bomb. Oh, and then betray your Iranian colleagues and steal the nuclear bomb and attack the American Navy because you have issues with your surrogate daddy! Seriously, what complete and utter garbage this movie is.

The final action scene, I shit you not, involves the new baby Bourne assassin fighting baby Darth Vader in a speedboat as a nuclear bomb ticks down. The tension! The drama! It’s like the end of Face/Off except completely devoid entertainment.

There’s a hilarious moment, after baby Bourne kills baby Vader, where the kid is alone in a speedboat with the nuclear bomb. ‘What do I do? What do I do?’ It’s like the modern equivalent of those silent movies with the big, round bombs and the fuse burning down. ‘Where do I throw it? Who can I give it to?’ Except it’s a nuke.

Before I go any further, I should mention the fact that there’s a scene where Michael Keaton gets tortured. He has his fingernails ripped off, he gets electrocuted and he gets sliced. And yet he tells baby Vader how much he likes it. Baby Vader almost looks like he’s about to start crying. How am I supposed to take this kid seriously as a threat when he can’t even torture someone properly? And Michael Keaton just Michael Keaton’s his arse off. There he is with no fingernails and yet he looks like he’s having the time of his life. He even manages to sucker the stupid ex pupil and bites piece of his ear off. And yet baby Vader doesn’t kill him. He wants Keaton to witness his master plan. His attack on the US Navy. He’s doing all of this so that he can make Keaton feel bad! It’s the stupidest motivation I’ve seen in a long time. ‘I’m going to torture you...but not kill you. And I’ll going to nuke the US Navy and kill myself...and you’ll feel really bad. Fuck you dad!!!’

And it’s in this post torture state that Keaton begins dangling out the side of a helicopter, yelling at his protege to drop the nuke in the ocean. Which at least stops the absolute ridiculousness of the kid trying to find a place to put the bomb. ‘Maybe if I shove it in the toilet and close the door, everything will be okay!’

So the kid gets airlifted out of the blast radius and the bomb explodes underwater which makes the CGI US Navy wobble a lot. But just when you think it’s all over, there’s the hint that the filmmakers are fishing for a sequel and an inevitable franchise. Quick, let me do a Michael Keaton like in the above screencap.

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