Tag Archives: Michael Cuesta

American Assassin (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Michael Cuesta
Writers: Stephen Schiff (screenplay by), Michael Finch (screenplay by)
Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Taylor Kitsch, David Suchet

I finally got round to viewing “American Assassin” as it was one that I had my eye on for a while and I was of course looking forward to watching. Primarily because of Michael Keaton’s involvement. It’s no secret that the actor is having a resurgence in his career at the moment with the successful “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”, “The Founder” as Ray Kroc and playing Adrian Toomes / Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

I’ve always been a fan of Keaton since I saw him portray BeetleJuice (don’t dare say it three times) and I knew that this was more a supporting role to the main character of Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) and to be honest this movie had a great opening with after the death of his girlfriend at the hands of terrorists, Mitch is drawn into the world of counterterrorism, mentored by tough-as-nails former U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. Stan Hurley (Keaton)

To be honest this was as good as it got. I thought the terror attack on the beach was well laid out and very gritty and realistic. At best “American Assassin” was very average and albeit a nice opening became a nonsensical plot with minimum effort and what looked like a rushed climatic battle.

I expected Mitch Rapp to be a more fleshed out character who is haunted and determined to seek revenge. Don’t get me wrong he is that to an extent but him being discovered and sent away to train under the Cold War veteran Stan Hurley all felt hurried along and to be honest I accepted that just to finally get Michael Keaton in on the action. Dylan O’Brien was okay as Rapp and did his best but up against Keaton you can see the gap between the experienced and the young actor.

This may sound harsh but eliminate Keaton from the cast and you have a very average movie with an average cast. Even the inclusion of actor David Suchet as Director Stansfield added nothing interesting to the plot. Taylor Kitsch as Ghost was Hurley’s previous understudy but came off petulant and predictable.

Director Michael Cuesta’s previous work was mostly in television in Six Feet Under, Dexter and Homeland. I previously reviewed his 2014 movie “Kill the Messenger” which was okay and “American Assassin” was similar in its style. Although pacing was never an issue on Kill the Messenger I felt part of this movie was rushed and disorientating.

Overall the movie promised so much and failed to deliver. The action sequences were decent but the pacing of the movie was a little over the place and the ending felt over before it began as if everyone got bored very quickly and just wanted to wrap things up as fast as possible. I would’t say don’t watch this movie if you are a fan one Michael Keaton as he has the best lines and scenes and I wouldn’t exactly highly recommend it either as the movie offers nothing but some decent action scenes.

Kill the Messenger (2014) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Michael Cuesta
Writers: Peter Landesman,  Gary Webb (book)
Stars: Jeremy Renner,  Robert Patrick,  Jena Sims

Jeremy Renner stars as Gary Webb who is a journalist at a small newspaper. When Gary receives a tip-off that a witness at trial of a drug dealer is a government informant, and is importing drugs into the U.S.

After investigating the information  he uncovers evidence that suggests that the CIA are allowing U.S.-backed rebels in Nicaragua to sell large quantities of narcotics in the U.S.  in exchange for weapons.

Swaying whether or not to publish the story (which he feels is the right thing to do), his life begins to change as paranoia and his faith in his colleagues starts to take effect.

Renner is basically running the show and the story in “Kill the Messenge” and manages to carry the film although he is supported by well know actors (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Barry Pepper, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paz Vega, Robert Patrick and Ray Liotta) who really just make cameo appearances for the purpose of the story although I’m sure Director Michael Cuesta must have enjoyed dropping these stars in for the audience to gasp at.

Renner’s performance as Gary Webb is excellent and convincing by the actor who appears to be fully committed into becoming Webb (although if you google image the real Webb you will discover there isn’t much likeness between the actor and the real person, lets just say the movies “Webb” is more in line with the Hollywood look than real life).

The actor also manages to capture a wide range of emotions that the Webb would have encountered and had to experience and you can see the transformation by Renner from being a confident and sometimes cocky reporter to a struggling, tired and emotionally paranoid and scared husband and father.

The Writing in this movie is probably reliant on Gary Webb’s book Dark Alliance and although I haven’t read the book I’m sure this would have been a valuable source for Peter Landesman to work with.

Michael Cuesta’s directing is effective and appears to have collaborated intensely with Renner to capture the characteristics of Webb and allowing the audience to understand the position and stress Webb found himself in with the information that was brought to him.

Personally most of the movies I have saw Jeremy Renner in has been action movies, but here he really shows you his abilities as an acting heavy weight and thats without the ensemble of cameos dotted around the film. As an example the final scenes of the movie with Webb’s acceptance speech, and his ascending the escalator are so beautifully constructed and executed that “Kill the Messenger” is a must see movie.

The Cinematography and visuals fit the tone of the film very well. Stylised heavily with its grainy effects and the external footage it inter-slices throughout the film gives it an aged and exciting feel, similar to other movies from past decades. What ties it all together though is its clear focus.

Kill the Messenger turned out to be an unexpected great movie from my point of view as I was expecting it to be more in line with an action flick such as Enemy of the State, but had more of a “Snowden” feel to it with it’s heavy drama angle on the story. I highly recommend watching this movie from 2014.