American Assassin

…♪stay away from me-ee

O k, right wing hawks … here’s a film for you. It’s everything an American revenge piece ought to be; it’s paranoid, xenophobic, violent, and has a spirit of irreverence that you secretly wish all young people have -but only in the line of heroism, of course. Now let me tell you why should wish that this tale is fictional: from 2001 to 2014, the number of Americans who died in all terrorist attacks, here and abroad, is 3,412. This includes 9/11. Since 2001, the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan -just Afghanistan, mind you; I’m not talking Iraq, Syria, ISIS or anywhere else the US has attacked in the Middle East- is 26,000. So, by my calculations, for every super heroic terror-created payback machine Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), there should be at least seven Afghani counterparts lookin’ for justice against, most likely, American targets. You can’t possibly believe the young American civilian who loses a loved one to terrorism feels any differently than the young Afghani civilian who loses a loved one to American ammo, can you?

Well, in case you can, here’s a great film for you. Mitch has just proposed to his beautiful fiancée on a Spanish beach. His future wife looks like a supermodel, of course; deaths are more tragic when gorgeous people are involved. Before she even gets to try on the ring … seriously, she didn’t even get to put the ring on her finger when an Islamic terrorist group invades and starts shootin’ up the beach. Personally, said attack to me says, “we hate tourists,” which is a sentiment many of us can back, but not enough to take up arms. When Mitch comes to, he puts on his vengeance pants and spends the next eighteen months tracking down bad guys. You can’t mock the guy’s commitment – he learns several combat disciplines and Arabic to boot.

At this point, I was hoping for The Joker to show up asking, “Why so serious?” Because this film has all the levity of a morgue. However, if taken at face value, losing a loved one to a bullet is a horrible thing. And this is the best part of the film, accepting that the aimless lover has turned into a talented single-purpose agent of revenge. I’d probably want vengeance, too –yes, vengeance. If you think there’s any justice following terrorism, you and I are never going to see eye-to-eye—That is until reality happened. And reality happens to Mitch in the form of Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), VFA (Veteran of Foreign Ass-kicking). Stan teaches Mitch two very important lessons: 1) how to go from being a badass to being a lethal badass and 2) never give in to emotion. In acting terms, this amounts to “never show emotion,” which is great if you suck at the craft. Now Mitch is ready to battle bad guys.

The bad guys are in Turkey, of course. Being a gateway country between the perceived good (Europe) and the perceived evil (Middle East), Turkey is an ideal breeding ground for movie terrorism. Good gravy, fellas, when you write a screenplay, whom do you consult? Breitbart? Alex Jones? The RNC? “I want a place where there’s a reasonable mix of terrorists and good guys.” “Turkey, dude. There you have both white people [the ones worth saving] and non-white people [probable terrorists]” Before I go on, I want to make it perfectly clear that while I think the action scenes in American Assassin were passable, the ideology was not. This film had no problem calling almost every Middle Eastern person in the film either a terrorist or somebody actively working against the good guys.

All of this would matter if this film were more important. It isn’t. Most of you will be able to sit at home comfortably knowing that terrorism can’t happen here cuz the good guys have been wronged, and you don’t wrong a good guy. And our guys can take the torture, dammit. Finger nails? Electricity? Vice to the forearm? Pffft. Our knock-off Jason Bourne guys are better than your knock-off Jason Bourne guys. American Assassin isn’t a bad film … or even necessarily a racist film. It just strikes me as the kind of film made by people who probably aren’t aware of their own racism, and instead of doing real research, they took aim at easy targets. American Assassin is the kind of film where you take a very complicated problem (terrorism) and give it some easy and thoughtless [read: Trump-like] solutions. Hence, I find American Assassin a tad irresponsible, which, as I say, would be a big deal if this film had a prayer of influencing minds.

A kid becomes weaponized when
His world is rocked by some evil men
After cathartic summation
Of retaliation
It will be time to murder again

Rated R, 111 Minutes
Director: Michael Cuesta
Writer: Stephen Schiff and Michael Finch and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz
Genre: Revenge, American style
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Red, white and blue bleeding hawks
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Jihadists

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