Film Reviews

AMERICAN ASSASSIN Review

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This article previously appeared on Crossfader

Director: Michael Cuesta

Genre: Thriller, Action

Year: 2017

Picture a white American man who experienced a tragic and life-changing event at the hands of terrorists and is recruited by the CIA to seek revenge. Unfortunately, this is far too easy to conceptualize considering there are at least three movies narratively similar to this made every year. AMERICAN ASSASSIN manages to be no exception. It does, however, stand out from the rest of the pro-America war films in that it is probably the most offensive one I have seen in recent years.

The terrorists are, you guessed it, Muslim. While the terrorists are jihadists, blatant Islamic images, obvious Quran references, and ISIS-esque video clips embedded in the movie simply support Islamophobic rhetoric and racism. As the opening scene unfolded in front of me—images of a wholesome white-American romance ruined by jihadist terror attacks—I immediately rolled my eyes, slumped down into my seat, and took it as a warning for what was to come. The CIA agents travel to Turkey and Iran, countries that cable news won’t let go of, not to mention that all the nuclear physicists and terrorists are the exact image of a Middle Eastern stereotype.

Dylan O’Brien’s startling post-Teen Wolf vibe

Despite all these obviously racist moments, there was one scene that bothered me far more than all the others. During a simulated CIA training session, the recruits must identify a terrorist in a crowd. The first person that the camera hovered on to pose as a potential terrorist was a Middle Eastern-looking man. This shot didn’t actively associate brown folks with terrorism (unlike the entire premise of this movie), but it capitalized on the concept that, as Americans, we already know that ambiguously ethnic people are definitely terrorists. I will give the writers the benefit of the doubt on this one, though. This shot could have easily been a very poorly executed opportunity for societal self-reflection, attempting to allow the audience to examine their own preconceived prejudices. Unfortunately, as an ethnically ambiguous brown folk, I didn’t buy it.

But don’t worry, the movie gets even more problematic! The lead character clearly suffers from PTSD due to his jihad-foiled-all-American-romance, but instead of using this as an opportunity to address the realities of PTSD and mental illness amongst war veterans, it romanticizes it. The lead’s PTSD drives his need for revenge and becomes a motive for killing the bad guy, eventually becoming a critical part of his (inevitable) success. This reinforces how society treats veterans as heroes while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the negative impacts of exactly what they’re being applauded for.

Actual image of Michael Keaton letting me down

Furthermore, despite AMERICAN ASSASSIN’s genre label as a “thriller,” it lacked that exact element. Dylan O’Brien’s character isn’t multi-dimensional, he’s just a terrible person. He’s selfish, refuses to listen to anyone, and wallows in his own self-pity. These traits are good starting places, but absolutely no character development occurs until the very end, so his attitude got exhausting very quickly. He also doesn’t have much to personally lose considering he’s already lost everything. Other than revenge, there was nothing else motivating him. Basically, all the potential thrills were completely lost on me because I didn’t care what happened to him at all.

The majority of these failed thrills were depicted through graphic and excessive amounts of violence. AMERICAN ASSASSIN was littered with shots of bullet wounds, warfare, torture, and death. I would normally defend violence in movies, but in this instance, there was no justification and no reason to include such frequent and graphic images. The whole movie felt like a cheap, cop-out thriller that only managed to get a single grimace out of me when Michael Keaton lost a few fingernails.

Another image of Dylan O’Brien holding a gun, which is about 80% of the movie anyways

AMERICAN ASSASSIN is not only uninspired and cliché, but also the absolute last movie that America needs at this moment in our history. It does no more than pander to our societal racism and xenophobia. It blatantly endorses and places value upon the criticized and internationally frowned upon aspects of our country.

I ask one thing of Hollywood: give us something new, something that will allow the audience to step outside of their subjectivity, something that will have a positive impact on this country. AMERICAN ASSASSIN fails in every regard.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Kamla Thurtle
Kamla is a film studies major who believes that cinema is one of the most important languages of the 21st century. She also has two cats, Autumn and Luna, and two fish, Milo and Winnie, who always watch movies with her.

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    1 Comment

    1. I like movies that portray the reality that terrorists are in fact most likely to be Muslims, and the good will most likely be, well, a white guy. Like in the real world. Seems like you might have preferred a trannie gender non- binary hero taking on anything white and male and pulverizing it.

      1. Hey DAN, instead of being a turd and xenophobic d*ckhead, why dont you get off the page if you have nothing relevant to say.

    2. I’m a Muslim and a super big fan of Dylan, yet I was 11 mins into this movie and so upset because they clearly are using my religion in a seriously offensive way, yes there are terrorist in the world, however, THEY ARE NOT MUSLIM! They claim to be Muslim but in fact they aren’t. Just because a few dumb heads decided they are gonna use Islam as a cover for their violent acts, doesn’t make islam or Muslims bad. If this were the case, the KKK would pose that all Christians are extremist too ?? I’m sorry but I don’t agree. I shouldn’t have to defend my religion especially because of a movie 🙄. I wanna thank you for writing a honest and clear view about the movie. Means a lot.

    3. Hi , i’d like to inform people about these ignorant writers such as Stephen schiff, Micheal finch, Edward zwick, Marshall herskovitz for writing this extravaganza, however I am here yet to believe this was written with the intent to cause hatred upon fellow Muslims who just like other religions believe in God and here in this movie .Allah has been referred to more than once which is quite seemingly offencive especially when there’s people who enjoy watching Dylan o’Brien , and his great antics . Even the directors seem narrow minded to even portray it on tv especially when people are gonna expect something scary to happen because it’s a thriller/action movie. Nowhere does it say in any source of wisdom e.g the Quran that Muslims are to cause violence, Just because a group of people who call themselves Muslims ( but aren’t) that didn’t contradict the fact Islam has nothing to do with what these confused, insane , Crazy terrorists who don’t obviously deserve to be in this world . The fact that it’s being portrayed in the mainstream now , just proved that people are not learning anything and it will just cause more chaos for the future because the future is yet to be in your power.The kkk was catholic, does that give atheists or Jewish people or any other religion for a matter of fact the power to portray Jesus as being evil to give them permission in the bible to allow whtie suppremacy to actually have happened , or shall I say racism still exists. I completely understand the contradictions as to what I’m saying but at least understand where exactly I’m coming from I’m trying to tell you that the same way the bible didn’t promote racism , the Quran didn’t promote violence there are quotes in the bible that argue that racism isn’t allowed. But kkk still happened, the same way in the movie the guy who thinks he’s a Muslim murdered Mich’s wife .All I’m trying to get out of this is that I know it’s just a movie but eventually people are going to make movies based on what you have perceived as what Allah wanted , god didn’t ask for people to kill other non Muslims , that why Muslims believe int he day of judgement or which that day they will be examined , your religion is your choice and you should be allowed to choose what you believe in because there is the freedom of religion act that allows us to believe in whatever we want , even if others disagree it doesn’t matter that doesn’t stop us from co existing but let me tell you one thing this movie restricts Muslims from feeling welcome in this world as it shows hatred to Muslims and people who don’t know about the religion will create there only silly perception on what the religion is about based on a movie that has nothing to do with Islam but feels the need to include it it’s just downright comical knowing that it’s almosr 2018 and it still feels like the 19th century all over again , gosh , before you publish a movie atleast prioritise your fans and ask for their response if you don’t have a brain and lack time to teach yourselves about a religion especially when your wasting your time memorising lines to amuse or entain people .im literally not going to lie the movie title is so misleading like when you start watching the movie you don’t realise what hole your into until your so far, deep on the ground that you won’t be able to get back up . Same as when your career is ruined to expect to be accepted to Hollywood because your career will flush down the toilet , Dylan o’brien .

    4. ” the terrorists are as you guessed muslim ” Fucking typical twattish lefty bullshit. The media go to ANY length to never even say the fucking word Islam or Muslim despite the never ending shit carried out in its names. The Film industry are no different, films left right and centre and the ” terrorists ” are fucking FRENCH!! Russian, Irish ANYTHING but muslim!

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