Had to review in response to the unhelpful Common Sense review
American Assassin is a well made, gritty geopolitical thriller. Here is what you need to know if your teens want to see it: American Assassin is appropriately rated R and unlike PG or PG-13, an R rating still means something, so I figured parents can probably figure it out. But when I saw the biased and not helpful review of American Assassin from CSM and compared it to the inexplicable 4 star rave for It, ALSO very deservedly rated R, I had to say something. Unlike the pointless yet very disturbing, child-centric horror and abuse of It, the real-world violence of American Assassin serves an interesting story that has positive messages.
So for those parents who are interested in American Assassin, but may not have the time or inclination to pre-screen the film yourselves (although I do recommend doing so) here is what you need to know:
As advertised, the movie is exceedingly violent. There is extreme bloody gun violence as well as bloody, deadly hand to hand combat. Many, many people die, including sympathetic and innocent people. But, everyone who is harmed or threatened is an adult, and the violence is never belabored. The violent action is cut very quick, the result being that disturbing images are not seared into your brain. The director is trying to entertain, not horrify or disturb the audience. The overall feeling about the violence is that these are professionals doing their jobs, not sadists lingering lovingly over their mayhem. Even the torture scene is restrained and uses audience imagination and actor performance rather than too much explicit gore to get the idea across.
There is no sexual content at all, only brief kissing. There is a shot of a woman’s naked breasts but she is naked because she is shown dressing, not because there is anything sexual going on. It is the one gratuitous shot in the movie. On the other hand, it is just breasts. The two main women CIA characters, both skilled, courageous and admirable, are never shown in a state of undress.
After seeing the movie for myself, here is why I will take my 14 year old to see American Assassin:
1) I know him and think he can handle it. I would not say this movie is ok for any 14 year old. You have to know your kid.
2) He is entirely untroubled by the violence of the PG-13 movies he has seen- Marvel movies, Maze Runner, Wonder Woman, etc. The difference is the violence is not stylized or prettified. Well, violence actually victimizes real people and people really die when they are shot. I do not see how this is an inappropriate lesson for a young teen to absorb.
3) Like many informed 14 year olds he knows there are people in the world who seek to kill as many innocent people as they can to further their global domination goals. Seeing a movie about those tasked with stopping such people with lethal means does not strike me as a bad thing.
4) It is a very good movie.
The story craftily balances clarity and sophistication, rare for a fast paced, violent thriller. The story is unpredictable but it all makes sense. You do have to pay close attention to the “talky’ scenes and make some basic logical connections to accurately grasp the plot.
This is a very fast paced, interesting movie you can enjoy in the theater and has themes you can talk about with your teen afterward. Survivor’s guilt, revenge, redemption, the use and abuse of power, violence used for ill or good, and the various natures of service and sacrifice to name a few. Plus the movie would make a great starting point for discussions of civics, geography, and geopolitics.