American Assassin 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Everyone wants to replicate the success of THE BOURNE IDENTITY, but as films attempt to build their own franchises with unlikely action stars, people forget that the simplicity and focus of the first Bourne film is one of the things that made it great. That and Matt Damon. AMERICAN ASSASSIN starts out by trying to replicate some of that simplicity, but it just can’t help itself once it gets going and things run off the rails pretty quick. I was excited about the possibility of AMERICAN ASSASSIN, but the end result was disappointing.
AMERICAN ASSASSIN has a great story in it, but the film gets lost trying to tell a story it’s not cut out to tell. Let me explain. The film tells the story of Mitch (Dylan O’Brien), a completely normal guy vacationing with his beautiful girlfriend that comes under attack from a group of terrorists. In the process, his girlfriend gets killed and Mitch dedicates his life to training and infiltrating the terrorist organization that was responsible. If we stop here, we have a great movie. The idea of a normal guy becoming so engulfed in rage and revenge that he manages to train himself to be a heartless killer and spy is pretty great. I wanted to see him train and go through the trials and embarrassments as he learns to fire weapons, fight and control his emotions without the help of any government agency. But that’s not the movie we received. Instead, we see his girlfriend get killed and then we skip 18 months ahead where Mitch has already gone through the training and is about to infiltrate his targeted terrorist group.
At this point, he gets recruited by the CIA and becomes an agent almost instantly. From here, he’s sent to uncover a plot to steal a nuclear weapon, which just happens to have been stolen by a former agent, named Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). This takes up about 75% of the film and at this point, it feels like any second class action or spy film we’ve seen dozens of times, usually starring Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes or some other B-movie regular. And for a spy movie, it lacked any real “spy” stuff, which was also disappointing. If you’re training elite assassins, I would think you’d have to teach them more than how to fire a gun and fight. I think Hollywood executives think that stuff is boring, but all of the best spy films have a strong “spy” element to them.
Michael Keaton shows up as Stan, the seasoned veteran and instructor that takes Mitch under his wings. Keaton is great in everything he’s in and I assume he delivered exactly what he was asked to do. However, one of the problems with the film was the lack of instruction and time spent focusing on the relationship between Mitch and Stan. Ghost and Stan had a similar mentor-student relationship that we learn about as the plot unfolds, but the parallels between the two relationships should have been clearer and more defined in order for the emotional scenes to have any impact. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on Dylan O’Brien’s hair. The filmmakers had to know he normally looks like a middle-schooler, but with that haircut, he looks like he’s in kindergarten. I find it hard to believe someone on set didn’t try to get him to get a haircut.
I’ve been hard on AMERICAN ASSASSIN and maybe that’s because I had high expectations for it to be more than what it was. The frustrating thing about it is that it could have been much better and probably much cheaper had they recognized what they had. But they jumped into a terrible, overplayed evil villain plot and lost their way.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: This appears to be an upconverted 4K transfer from a 2K DI and we get the standard 4K improvements we’ve come to expect from the format. For AMERICAN ASSASSIN, there were scenes I thought looked much better, such as the first encounter between Mitch and Ghost and then there were others where I was expecting more, such as the end encounter between Stan and Ghost. But virtually all daylight scenes look better with settings and closeups getting a nice improvement in detail and color depth. This isn’t a perfect transfer, but it’s slightly better than the Blu-ray.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track from the Blu-ray is included here and it sounds wonderful.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no special features exclusive to the 4K, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Target Acquired: Creating an American Assassin (9:55): Standard fluff piece promoting the film.
Finding Mitch Rapp: Dylan O’Brien (9:55): Another fluff piece focused on the main character.
Transfer of Power: Hurley and Ghost (13:45): Similar to the above piece, this time focusing on the mentor and the villain.
Weaponized: Training and Stunts (12:00): This one focuses on the stunts and the preparation the actors had for their scenes.
In the Field: On Location (9:30): This is a fluff piece focused on the settings.
Alamo Drafthouse Q&A (26:05): Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch answer some basic questions.