AMERICAN ASSASSIN: Early on in this movie, there’s a scene where a CIA “spook” (Michael Keaton) asks a revenge seeking black ops recruit (Dylan O’Brien) why he’s still alive. It’s a legitimate question since the terrorists who killed his fiancé (Charlotte Vega) oddly spare his own life. To paraphrase an insurance commercial, if you’re an international terrorist, you murder as many people as you can. It’s what you do. It’s the first of many head-scratching plot holes that continue when O’Brien (THE MAZE RUNNER) is transformed from an Ivy League graduate student into such an instrument of destruction that he’s banned from a mixed martial arts facility. Geez, that’s sort of like firing a stripper because she took off too many clothes. Putting all that aside, “teacher and student” embark on a mission to thwart one of Keaton’s (BIRDMAN) former trainees (Taylor Kitsch) from obtaining a nuclear weapon to begin World War III. What follows is a compilation of people working in intelligence doing incredibly stupid things to get themselves killed in an action movie. Kitsch’s (SAVAGES) motives to bring about a global apocalypse appear to revolve around resentment over the way he was trained making him one really disgruntled former employee. O’Brien himself feels like he’s just going through the motions of a performance where his acting range goes from A to B. The fight sequences are well-choreographed by second unit director Vic Armstrong as is a subterranean atomic explosion that nearly sinks an entire naval fleet. But the rest of the movie is so goofy and implausible that it doesn’t ever feel like anything is ever really at stake. It’s been said that too many cooks spoil the broth. Along those same lines, four screenwriters can only come up with a cliché ridden script that borrows heavily from DEATH WISH (1974) and LETHAL WEAPON (1987) without establishing any identity or “mojo” of its own.
CRITIC’S GRADE: C-
CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some good movies that starred veteran character actor Harry Dean Stanton who died on September 15th at the age of 91. – THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (1960), COOL HAND LUKE (1967), TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971), DILLINGER (1973), COCKFIGHTER (1974), WHERE THE LILIES BLOOM (1974), THE GODFATHER, PART II (1974), FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), RANCHO DELUXE (1975), STRAIGHT TIME (1978), ALIEN (1979), WISE BLOOD (1979), DEATH WATCH (1980), PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980), PRETTY IN PINK (1986), THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988), THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999), THE AVENGERS (2012)