A red band trailer for American Assassin, the hopeful launching pad for a new action franchise in the vein of Tom Clancy (the movie is based on the “Mitch Rapp” novels by Vince Flynn so it is a straight-up Clancy knock-off), has been released and I have not previously paid any attention to this movie, but now I have a series of questions. The trailer shows off Dylan O’Brien—former Teen Wolf star, the once-and-never Spider-Man, and survivor of a probably quite serious on-set accident— becoming the best terrorist hunter in the world after his girlfriend apparently dies during an attack on a resort. So this is my first question—who the f*ck wants to watch this right now?
This movie got greenlit several years ago, so in a way this isn’t their fault, but this is exactly the kind of movie that’s going to suffer in the current climate. The real world is f*cking scary as sh*t at the moment, so is anyone lining up for the movie that reminds us how f*cking scary everything is? And it’s not like this type of movie was doing especially wel before—Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit failed in 2014, and though Lone Survivor was a success in 2013, by 2016 Peter Berg’s patriotism schtick wore out and Patriots Day didn’t even break even. Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie, 13 Hours, also failed last year. You can track the downward slope of terrorism movies over the last couple years.
My next question is for Alejandro Iñárritu, maker of the art-before-commerce film, Birdman. How does it feel to see your chosen Birdman, Michael Keaton, so obviously cashing in after you revived his career? Sure, there’s serious stuff like Spotlight and The Founder in his post-Birdman resume, but there’s also Minions and Marvel and now this, an obvious paycheck movie. Keaton these days is pretty much the exact kind of actor Riggan Thomson wanted to stop being. (Although it’s really nice to have Michael Keaton back in the mainstream, so Iñárritu is the only person potentially bothered by this.)
Lainey wants to know why this is a fall release, and not summer, which is a good question. American Assassin screams “post-July 4 summer movie” (when the summer season starts winding down). But American Assassin is coming out in September, which, given the current blockbuster trends, does make sense. The overcrowding of the summer tent-pole season is pushing action movies further out into the calendar year. April is Fast/Furious month, March is up for grabs every year but I bet Warner Brothers/DC stake it out soon, and February is a viable month now, too, thanks to Deadpool and John Wick. September is typically a lower box office month, and the softer ground makes for an easier landing for movies like this, the unestablished franchise hopefuls looking for an audience. Ten years ago this is a summer movie for sure, but these days it can’t hack it against brand-name superheroes and previously established franchises.
But my big question is for Taylor Kitsch—what the hell, man? What the hell happened? Kitsch is playing the bad guy—not the lead, not even the mentor. The bad guy! I know Kitsch’s post-FNL career hasn’t been what we expected, and I think we’ve all realized his talents are on the more limited end of the spectrum. But Kitsch has a lot of screen presence, and it boggles my mind no one has been able to translate that to film (yet). So are we giving up? Are we throwing Kitsch on the “Well That Didn’t Work” pile along with Orlando Bloom? Or do we put all our chips on that TV movie about Waco? American Assassin is definitely his “What The Hell” movie, though. You know, the kind of movie that makes you go “what the hell” when you see it on an actor’s resume. Hopefully this ends up an aberration, and not the future of Taylor Kitsch’s career.