Dog’s Movie House: “American Assassin” Vanilla Filmmaking, “Mother!” Decidedly Not!


Howdy Folks!  It’s The Kendog!

Jennifer Lawrence In Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!”



We’ve got two wide releases opening this week and they couldn’t be any more different.  “American Assassin” staring Michael Keaton is a fairly standard actioner that has a rather assembled feel to it, while Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” is an entirely different beast altogether.  Aronofsky’s film is the work of a talented auteur at his most prolific, with engaging performances and a sense of dread that moves through the picture like a cold breeze.  But “Mother!” takes some narrative choices that will leave many moviegoers scratching their heads.  It’s wonderfully crafted but not easily accessible.  I found it to be a frustrating movie.  You might too if you take a chance on this film. 



“American Assassin” feature Dylan O’Brien (“The Maze Runner) as Mitch Rapp, a young man who experiences unbelievable tragedy when, after successfully proposing to his girlfriend (Charlotte Vega) on the beach, watches helplessly as she and several others are gunned down in a terrorist attack.  Resolving to avenge her, Mitch starts training himself in the ways of the warrior, attempting to find and kill the people who murdered his fiancé.  His attempts attract the attention of a CIA recruiter named Irene who puts Mitch in the capable hands of veteran trainer Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).   After putting Mitch through his paces, Stan and his young protégé find themselves after a mysterious rogue agent called Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) who not only has enough plutonium to level a city but also has a mysterious past with Hurley.

So it’s one protégé against another, which is a story you’ve seen many times.  This film is only slightly more interesting due to the gravitas Keaton brings to an otherwise underwritten role.  The script, credited to four screenwriters (including Ed Zwick) from Vince Flynn’s novel, is filled with your usual action movie clichés but the direction by Michael Cuesta (“Kill The Messenger) is energetic enough to make “American Assassin” a diverting time-waster.  Keaton is the real reason to see this film and while O’Brien is certainly in good enough physical shape, his character is fairly one-note as written.  Kitsch does some good work as Ghost and the action beats are serviceable, but this film serves as no better than a matinee.  2 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!


Next we get to Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” a film that doesn’t really fit into any easily quantifiable category.  Part horror film, part religious parable, part relationship film, part. . .something else, “Mother!” is never less than engrossing even if parts of it make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

“Mother!” features Jennifer Lawrence as, uh, Mother (none of the cast have proper names).  She’s married to Him (Javier Bardem) a once successful writer suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.  Mother spends her time remodeling their giant house which is out in the middle of nowhere.  Their lives are comfortable, routine, and stifling to Bardem’s creativity.  Things change when Man (Ed Harris) and Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) show up, fans of Bardem’s work, and Bardem invites them to stay, much to the consternation of Mother.  A tragedy causes events to escalate, leading to more and more strangers invading Mother’s home, causing her to question her sanity.

That’s all I’m going to tell.  In fact, I think that’s all I can tell you without sounding like a nut.  Let’s just say that about two-thirds of the way through the film, it takes a sudden left turn and becomes a fever dream of images that don’t always make narrative sense.  The images take a slow burn thriller and change it into something I’m still having trouble understanding.  The images are horrific in nature for the most part but they lack the connective narrative tissue to make one really care about the terrible images on screen.

That said, “Mother!” is an extremely well crafted film, with Aronofsky keeping the camera close to Lawrence at all times like a revolving, intrusive satellite.  The suspense, for the most part, is well-crafted, at least for the first two-thirds of the film. Lawrence is uniformly excellent here as she is in just about every scene in the film.  Bardem, Harris, and Pfeiffer all do excellent work as well, with Pfeiffer being the standout as the sharp tongued wife of Ed Harris.


All in all “Mother!” is an amazing bit of visual artistry but the muddled nature of the story made it hard for me to totally commit myself to the immersive viewing experience.  This film is not for everyone, maybe not for most people, but those of you who are open-minded may find yourselves on an exhilarating, if confusing, ride.   3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!   So Sayeth The Kendog! 

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