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Movie Review: ‘American Assassin’ Misses the Mark

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American Assassin Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he opening scene of American Assassin is one too familiar in action-thrillers. The hunky Mitch (Dylan O’Brien) has just proposed to his girlfriend at the beach while filming it for all the world to see. She says yes, a surrounding crowd claps and he goes to the outdoor bar to grab her a drink.

You don’t have to be a genius to know something horrible is going to happen to this girl. I was prepared to watch her die in slow motion. I was not, however, prepared for that death to be part of a gruesome attack on the beach by gun-toting Muslim terrorists. That’s not fair. How can I laugh at the cliche and expected death when it comes slathered in blood, bullets and innocent people being gunned down ruthlessly?

American Assassin Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Dylan O’Brien is out for revenge in ‘American Assassin.’

A major flaw with a thriller such as this is that it takes a cue from current events more than it should. It’s bad enough that the beach massacre reminds me of the many Muslim terror attacks with its gruesome and graphic violence, but it’s even worse to follow that up with a terrorist recruitment video, complete with rock music and footage of what looks like real deaths in the Middle East. This is where American Assassin lost me. Unless there is some meditation on how inhumane all this hatred and war has made the world, I’m not interested in the film’s central plot of revenge and nukes. Those silly and overused writing devices don’t deserve such reality.

The film seems to be on a mission to make its world as ugly, cynical and mean-spirited as possible. When we catch up with Mitch 18 months later, he’s overcome with fury to avenge his fiancee. He works out at a gym to strengthen himself, but he’s too aggressive with his trainers and is kicked out. He throws knives in his apartment, angering the landlord. He’s also trying to infiltrate a Muslim terrorist group so he can join them and then kill their leader. The CIA doesn’t like that, but he still leads the organization to a terrorist so they figure they could maybe use him. After all, they’ve run tests on him and they’re off the charts. I’m assuming these tests included how muscular he looks with his shirt off and how good he looks holding a gun.

American Assassin Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Michael Keaton in the generic action poster.

He is trained to be an operative by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a Cold War veteran that only teaches the best of the best CIA agents. Hurley’s training program is entirely combat oriented. He teaches knife-killing techniques by handing a knife to Mitch, instructing him to kill his instructor. He’ll awaken his troops with a gun fired wildly into the air, asking why nobody was on watch and declaring everyone now dead. They’ll later play a virtual reality simulation of shooting terrorists out of a crowd, a sharp electric charge coursing through their bodies if they get shot before they shoot first. I’m seeing an awful lot of combat here and not a whole lot of secrecy. I dunno, something about working for the CIA makes me think these guys should know more than where to stick a knife and who to shoot.

Mitch and Hurley, as well as some other operatives to act as terrorist fodder, are on a mission in Rome to stop some terrorists from making a nuke. Hurley tells Mitch an important aspect of the job is not to make it personal. Of course, the mission will become personal and Mitch will disobey orders to chase after leads. Hurley will also let the mission get personal when his former student has gone rogue. Even the supporting Turkish agent of Annika (Shiva Negar) also has a personal dog in this fight.

Related: Movie Review: ‘It’ Floats with Fear and (Horror) Fun

By Hurley’s logic, these are the worst CIA operatives for the job. Don’t pull that building character nonsense on me to justify their stupidity. There is no character here. Not when our leads are constantly talking about the mission, condescendingly arguing with each other or growling in expletives at the terrorists. There’s a scene where Keaton eats off the ear of a terrorist holding him hostage, smiling with blood on his teeth and snarling like a dog. This is just one of many opportune times to showcase him as a deeply flawed man with severe psychological problems. But, no, he’s just a quirky old coot.

Read more for the rest of the American Assassin movie review:

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Box Office

Another Astounding Weekend at the Box Office for Avengers: Infinity War

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Box Office Weekend 5/4/18-5/6/18

Not the least bit surprising, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War has dominated the weekend box office with another massive gross. In its second weekend, the grandest superhero ensemble to date brought in $112.4 million. This brings its domestic total up to $450 million, and its worldwide take well over $1 billion. Time will tell if it has the legs, however, to hold its own against Marvel’s other superhero epic this year, Black Panther. Considering Black Panther is still in the top 10, and has almost passed $700 million domestic, it’ll be a close race between the two Marvel movies.

Of course, the success of the Avengers is due in no small part to this being a rather sparse weekend of premieres appearing in fewer theaters. Braving the Marvel storm to come in at #2 was the romantic comedy remake, Overboard, starring Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, making $14.7 million domestic. And if that’s the gross of the #2 spot, you can imagine how lower the other films are. Tully, a new comedy Jason Reitman and starring Charlize Theron, came in at #6 with a domestic gross of $3.1 million. Further down at #10 is the new David Tennant starring thriller, Bad Samaritan, making $1.7 million for the weekend.

There were expected dips all around with no huge surprises, but many of the successful films that have hung around are growing a considerable gross. John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place had the lowest drop and is currently sitting at a robust $159 million domestic total. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has already blazed many records, but it’s only $7 million away from clearing $700 million domestic.

See the full top 10 box office results below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($112,474,000)
  2. Overboard ($14,750,000)
  3. A Quiet Place ($7,600,000)
  4. I Feel Pretty ($4,900,000)
  5. Rampage ($4,620,000)
  6. Tully ($3,186,000)
  7. Black Panther ($3,146,000)
  8. Truth or Dare ($1,885,000)
  9. Super Troopers 2 ($1,815,000)
  10. Bad Samaritan ($1,758,000)

Next weekend, Avengers will be battling against the Melissa McCarthy starring comedy Life of the Party and the Gabrielle Union starring thriller Breaking In. Considering that Life of the Party will have the most significant theater count, McCarthy has the only real shot at being the first film to knock the superhero giant down from the top 10, though it’s doubtful of the Avengers hype will have died down by then.


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Box Office

Life of the Party and Breaking In Dominated by Avengers

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Box Office Report 5/11/18 – 5/13/18

In its third weekend, Avengers: Infinity War is still going strong with a beefy #1 spot that has yet to be bested. Marvel Studio’s latest superhero epic amassed $61.8 million for the weekend, soaring its total domestic gross up to $547 million. The film has managed to make more than Marvel’s other 2018 hit, Black Panther, in the same amount of time, but whether it’ll reach the same domestic gross remains to be seen. With the oncoming superhero film next week and a Star Wars film following, it’ll have some fierce competition.

The two newest films this week slid comfortably into the slots just below. Life of the Party, the new back-to-school comedy with Melissa McCarthy, predictably hit the #2 spot for being a female-centric comedy released on Mother’s Day weekend. While it didn’t exactly take the cake, the film did make $18.5 million to earn its spot during another Marvel cinematic snowstorm of a weekend. Just below it was the new thriller Breaking In, grossing $16.5 million, which is not too shabby for a film debuting in only 2500 theaters.

There were surprisingly low dips all around in the top 10. The smallest drop was for A Quiet Place, still hanging in there as the surprise horror hit, earning $6.4 million to boost its domestic total to $169.5 million. It’s not too surprising that the most significant drop was for Black Panther, grossing only $1.9 million. It’s a predictable drop considering the movie has been out for thirteen weeks, is already available to buy digitally, and will be out on DVD and Blu-ray by this Tuesday. It’s still a considerable feat for a film that has domestically grossed $696 million so far.

One film worth mentioning that snuck into the top 10 is RGB, the documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, expanding for the weekend into 180 theaters. That’s very impressive for such a small film to conquer the #10 spot on Mother’s Day weekend with a $1.1 million gross.

View the full top 10 list below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($61,817,000)
  2. Life of the Party ($18,500,000)
  3. Breaking In ($16,500,000)
  4. Overboard ($10,100,000)
  5. A Quiet Place ($6,400,000)
  6. I Feel Pretty ($3,710,000)
  7. Rampage ($3,380,000)
  8. Tully ($2,240,000)
  9. Black Panther ($1,932,000)
  10. RGB ($1,165,000)

Next weekend, Infinity War will be going up against a real contender with Deadpool 2, the sequel to the Ryan Reynolds starring superhero comedy that broke records in 2016. Also vying for the box office will be the dog comedy, Show Dogs, and the aged female-oriented comedy, Book Club.


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Review: “Deadpool 2” is Reheated Chimichangas That Mostly Hold Up

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Deadpool is third-wall breaking anti-hero that feels more needed than ever in the current crop of amassing superhero films. His self-aware satire made his 2016 film a hoot with commentary on the messy timelines, the lack of casting, and even mocking Ryan Reynolds himself. And while his sequel film does maintain that fast-paced and joking nature that made the character a breath of fresh air, it’s mostly the same brand we’ve come to expect from the merc with the mouth.

All the familiar scenes are present, even with the same bits of dialogue repeated from the previous film. There’s an opening fight where Wade “Deadpool” Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) narrates how this isn’t a superhero movie for the kids. There’s an extended bit where he trots around the X-Men headquarters where there are little to no mutants present. Hugh Jackman isn’t present in the film, but he always seems to find his way into the script in one form or another. Deadpool even rides up to the finale in a taxi and mentions chimichangas once again. While these segments still garner a laugh, there’s a lingering notion with each smirk that this superhero is running out of originality.

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Karan Soni (Dopinder) in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

One of my biggest complaints about the previous film was that there needed to be more actors for Deadpool to play off so that his fourth-wall narration doesn’t overwhelm the screen. The sequel features the opposite, amassing too many characters for Wade to rib that they struggle to work their way into the script. Cable (Josh Brolin) is a soldier of the future that travels back in time to kill a mutant kid and becomes bitterly frustrated with Deadpool being an obstacle. This would’ve been enough for a buddy picture, but the film keeps stuffing in heroes. Deadpool takes a liking to Cable’s target of the overweight teenage mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison), but the kid is so cocky and stand-offish that their chemistry doesn’t have much time to develop. Not when Deadpool must also ally himself with Domino (Zazie Beetz), a hero whose superpower is plot armor. And while Colossus and Nega return from the previous film, their roles are so standard that they naturally become lost in the shuffle.

There’s a tightrope of typical superhero staging and self-aware silliness that Deadpool walks once more, and there’s a larger wobble this time around. There’s a bitter pathos to push Deadpool forward in his plight, but it comes with knowledgable spite for last year’s Logan pulling the same strings, of which Deadpool curses outright. A change of pace for the character is his desire to embrace the X-Men philosophy of no killing, but Wade still plays fast and loose with this logic, counterintuitive of his journey to better carve out a family.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Deadpool in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

And, wow, does the diversity angle feel so much like bullet-point lip-service, where the black Domino has no flaws, and the lesbian Nega has no character. It’d be nice to have a film where Deadpool coordinates a diverse collective, but everything is so tightly packed with little room to breathe that the inclusivity feels more like a quota, trying to appease everyone without exploring any one angle deeply. Let me know more about Domino’s tragic past without wedging it in at the last minute. Give Nega some better lines considering that her girlfriend, whose only interactions are saying hi to Deadpool, has more dialogue than she does. You wouldn’t even know Firefist has a problem with the perceptions of his weight if he hadn’t brought it up in conversation.

Yes, Deadpool 2 is still funny, especially with one of the most hilarious mid-credit sequences in recent memory. But most of the laughs are familiar ones, reiterating previous jokes and not landing as many original ones past the update of commenting on the current state of superhero cinema. It’s a bit sad that a film this satirical of the genre doesn’t realize it’s coming down with a severe case of sequel-itis, throwing far too many characters at the screen and hardly balancing any of them. There is levity and life in Deadpool, but it needs to start going that extra mile of absurdity in its awareness if it doesn’t want to become one of the lesser superhero franchises it loves to mock so much.

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Colossus in Twentieth Century Fox’s DEADPOOL 2. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.


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