A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that American Assassin is an action/thriller about a group of secret agents trying to stop the sale and assembly of a nuclear bomb. Expect graphic violence, with lots of guns and shooting, blood spurts, dead bodies, both martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting, stabbing/slicing with knives, and a nuclear detonation. Also, a man is tortured: His arm is clamped in a vise, and his fingernails are ripped off. Language is also strong, with several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A woman is shown topless in one scene. Characters drink from a flask, and there's some background smoking. The movie is clumsy and poorly written, so unless teen fans of the Maze Runner films and TV's Teen Wolf are champing at the bit to see Dylan O'Brien on the big screen, it's unlikely to hold much interest. Michael Keaton co-stars.
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What's the story?
In AMERICAN ASSASSIN, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) proposes to his girlfriend on a beautiful beach, and she says yes. But then, from out of nowhere, terrorists attack and kill everyone except Mitch, who escapes. Newly driven and focused on cold revenge, Mitch starts training to infiltrate terrorist cells and take them out. CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) intercepts him and recruits him as a black ops agent, sending him to train with crusty ex-Navy SEAL Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Their first mission is to track nuclear weapon components that are being sold on the black market. But when they discover who's actually assembling the weapon, they must change their tactics.
Is it any good?
Based on a novel by Vince Flynn, this thriller adds "American" to its title in an effort to sound important or entertaining; it's not. Rather, American Assassin is clumsily written and directed and frequently absurd. Playing a crusty, veteran agent, Keaton brings the film its only real personality, but he's not enough. The rest of the cast, including O'Brien, is hopelessly bland.
Four writers -- including noted filmmaker Edward Zwick -- are credited with cobbling together the screenplay, which consists mainly of laughably bad expositional dialogue and awkward attempts to cover up plot holes. Director Michael Cuesta, who previously made the excellent Kill the Messenger, surprises with his lack of skill here, resorting to muddy cinematography and jigsaw editing to distract from the lack of coherence. The ending is especially awful, not only in its drastic departure from the movie's already ill-fated logic, but also in its blatant disregard for humanity in general.
Talk to your kids about ...
Why do you think so many characters in movies, on TV, and in books are motivated by revenge? What does revenge accomplish?
How do father-son-type relationships enter into the story? Are they healthy relationships? Is there trust? Encouragement?
Does the movie feature teamwork? If so, how?
How does the movie end? Is it a happy ending? What kind of damage was done along the way?
- In theaters: September 15, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 5, 2017
- Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan
- Director: Michael Cuesta
- Studio: CBS Films
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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