AMERICAN ASSASSIN (film) is offensive and badly written

AMERICAN ASSASSIN - 2017
Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Dylan O'Brien / Micheal Keaton /
Cinematographer: Enrique Chediak
Score: Steven Price
Content Advisory: R for strong violence and gore, some torture, and brief nudity
Source: Rented.


After the death of his girlfriend at the hands of terrorists, Mitch Rapp is drawn into the world of counterterrorism, mentored by tough-as-nails former U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. Stan Hurley.




I strongly advise you not to watch this film. I don't usually say that in a review, but I feel like this case calls for drastic measures. It's triggering, offensive, insensitive, and sexist.
The reason I watched it was because Dylan O'Brien's in it; I regret my decision immensely.


To say one or two positive things, the cinematography is gorgeous. The scenes are stunningly shot, and the same heavy, atmospheric tone is consistent for the whole movie. In addition, the musical score is gorgeous. I also love the fast-paced action scenes, which thanks to great camera work seem to immense you in the thick of the fighting. They're good, and suitably scary, too.

But the whole film is so badly written. There's no wit (swearing doesn't equal wit or intelligence, it equals laziness) and although the film seems to be trying its hardest to be all slick and smooth Jason Bourne-esque, it never manages. The plot lags in the middle of the film - some scenes are simply not gripping - and the pace is inconsistent, as well. It's pulp.

It's not even a fun action movie flick. The whole story is peppered with terrorist attacks, and it's triggering, too relevant to our current world climate, and the violence is unnecessarily gory and in your face. Yes, terrorism is real, but this movie never handles it properly due to terrible writing. Instead, it's just offensive, insensitive, and there for shock value. The movie never makes a point, and it gives no message. It's just uncomfortable to watch.




Dylan O'Brien does act well. His character - Mitch - also has some potential for three-dimension, but when his emotions are squashed out of him by Michael Keaton's character's toxic masculinity, Mitch's arc remains unfulfilled. His character could've been compelling - and O'Brien does induce sympathy - but his arc is predominantly stagnant. It's a shame.
The rest of the cast are completely flat and one-dimensional. No one is well written.

The main problem with the characters in this film, however, is the way the women are written. I probably sound like a stuck record by now, but I simply have to mention this because it's important. It's critical. Yes, this is an action film and action films don't generally spend a great deal of time on character development and they aren't known for writing great female roles, but it doesn't mean it can't be done. (The Bourne series has made passable attempts with characters portrayed by Rachel Weisz and Julia Stiles respectively, and of there's Steven McQueen's Widows).
But in American Assassin, the female characters are there for the following reasons: make the hero look good, lick his wounds, and be leverage for the bad guy. On top of that, they follow female stereotypes to a T.

We start with Mitch's girlfriend who is blonde, sweet, and bikini-clad before she's shot by terrorists. I'm not picking on her role in the story, exactly, (because male characters have fallen prey to that kind of misuse as well: providing motivation, their deaths acting as catalysts, etc) but I'm angry about the lazy way in which she's written. She's a stereotype through and through. Couldn't the writers have done better? Tried a bit harder?
But that's only the beginning.
Annika is the hot action chic that pops out of nowhere and joins Mitch as his wound-licker. There's hints of potential romantic feeling there, and twice she's held at gunpoint to convince him to lower his weapon (basically she's an upgraded damsel in distress). She also provides him with the cliche heart-to-heart scene, and cleans his wounds when he's injured. In a later scene, Mitch then attacks her in the bathroom when he suspects she's working for the enemy, and almost drowns her in the bath tub. The violence in that scene made me want to vomit, and I instantly lost any sympathy I had for our hero. His treatment of Annika is gratuitously violent. It's sick, badly written, and it feels like the writers are simply lounging back on their chairs and enjoying watching Mitch beat up this girl. That's what it feels like. To make it worse, later on in the movie Annika kills herself when she's being held by a bad guy, to give Mitch a way out of the ultimatum he's faced with: lower his gun, or she dies. Her death is lazy and insulting, as it's so obviously a means of getting her out of the way for Mitch to have a chance at triumph.

There's more misogynistic horror. In one scene, we see an unnamed topless woman standing in front of a mirror. She's obviously the mistress of the bad guy Mitch has come to kill, and before she's ruthlessly gunned down (by Mitch), the writers apparently thought that seeing her topless was a necessary addition to the script.
It isn't. It serves no purpose. And this is a prime example of the male filmmaking gaze; of male writers writing women. The shot we get of a topless woman is completely unnecessary to the story, and the context is crude and offensive. She doesn't even have a name or a purpose in the story other than be naked from the waist up and get cruelly shot with a few bullets. It is freaking insulting.

The women in this film are shoved around, violently dismissed, and are flat, stereotypical characters. I literally felt nauseous watching how they were treated.




American Assassin is bloated with gratuitous violence, stereotypical characters, and shabby writing that treats the female characters like garbage. It is not a film we need in the world right now

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