Ralph Potts reviews this espionage thriller based on the based on the best-selling book series by Vince Flynn, that follows CIA operative Mitch Raap.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Lionsgate - 2017
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 112 minutes
Genre: Thriller

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC @ 1000 NITS
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, David Suchet
Directed by: Michael Cuesta
Music by: Steven Price
Written by: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz based on the novel by Vince Flynn
Region Code: A

Release Date: December 5, 2017
"It Takes One to Recruit One"
My Take:

American Assassin follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a CIA black-ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together, the three discover a pattern in the violence, leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on settling a personal and professional vendetta that could have cataclysmic results.

I haven’t read any of the books featuring the character of Mitch Rapp so going into this film I could only go by what was presented in the scripting. American Assassin is an espionage thriller that ticks the requisite boxes, developing its characters and narrative points much as you’d expect. I had no real issue with the first two acts, finding them to be generally engaging, albeit formulaic. There is a turning point in act three, which invokes a twist, involving one of the characters, which derails the cohesiveness of the focus. From there things continue to sort of devolve as the whys and wherefores don’t bear the tangible fruit necessary to keep up with how things began. I didn’t mind the action, although it got a bit repetitive, and the production elements were solid, overall. The cast seemed to handle their respective roles well enough, with none standing head and shoulders above the rest.

American Assassin isn’t among the worst efforts I have seen, but it fails to hold onto the audience from beginning to end. In that regard it falls into the category of, not bad, but forgettable.

Replay Value:2.5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for strong violence throughout, some torture, language, and brief nudity.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

American Assassin comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 2160p HEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 71 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 5.2 Mbps. 

For its presentation in Ultra HD American Assassin was derived from a 3.4K source. I wasn’t able to determine whether it was rendered from 2K or 4K DI. This is a solid Ultra HD presentation that looks great on my large screen. What struck me from the onset is the lifelike reproduction of the textures captured by the camera's lens. Whether it be the finest minutia in physical features or rough textures on the surfaces of the stone buildings, streets, and the interiors of old buildings/structures, or the majestic vistas of the shooting locations, the imagery is gorgeous. The benefits of high dynamic range and wide color gamut are on display as earth toned colors have an added dimension that enlivens shots where they would normally have blended in, being seen as a less provocative background element that would generally go unnoticed.

Whites are emboldened, detailed and bright, especially during low level transitions viewed in a darkened environment. Contrast abounds, lending an authenticity that underscores the subject matter, bringing it to a visually rewarding level. Shot digitally, this rendering reproduces its elements with aplomb. Looking at the 1080p version, which is solid as well, the difference is noticeable, but not what I would describe as night and day. That being said, there is no question about which of the two makes for the more gratifying viewing experience.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I recently added the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel to my review system. This was to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for American Assassin, I found the HDR to be close, but felt that the DV rendering edged out the HDR-10. Much of this came when comparing the same scenes, and finding that the rendering of color was a bit warmer, providing a vividness that was aesthetically pleasing. I also thought that gradations in the white and black detail were more delineated. While I wouldn’t categorize these differences as stark, I definitely felt that the DV rendering was my preference.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix atmospherics and discrete effects. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements while complimenting the story's thematic tone. When the action kicks the level of immersion increases as the sound field comes alive. This is especially evident during the close quarters encounters in the hotel, vehicle pursuits and the big bang in the finale. I enjoyed the presentation's balance of atmosphere and integration of discrete object placement. I think that it complimented the source material and made for an entertaining listening experience.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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American Assassin comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 5.2 Mbps.

This is a solid high definition transfer that looks excellent. Images are transparent with exquisite detail and a near infinite sense of depth. Fidelity is never in question regardless of perspective. At times I found the visual style to be engaging. The chromatic range varies depending on the mood of a particular scene and can be underscored with sepia tones, cool bluish green or natural light. That combined with the use of shading, thematic lighting schemes, and eclectic cinematography imparts an inordinate and interesting quality. Skin tones among the cast don’t vary much and fall in line with the look of the film. Blacks are inky, dynamic and stable and contrast is boldly applied without overdriving whites/grays and washing out detail. This is a noticeably stylized and generally pleasing high definition video presentation that looked great on my big screen.

The is an excellent Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel soundtrack that features crystal clear dialog, powerful dynamics and a subtly aggressive and involving surround sound mix. I was impressed with the implementation of both spacial dimension, and discrete directional sounds that created an occasionally immersive listening environment. This worked hand in hand with film’s music, and thematic elements to build tension and help drive the story. Be sure to turn this one up when things get busy.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: American Assassin Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: American Assassin Blu-ray
  • “Target Acquired: Creating an American Assassin” Featurette
  • Finding Mitch Rapp: Dylan O’Brien” Featurette
  • Transfer of Power: Hurley and Ghost” Featurette
  • Weaponized: Training and Stunts” Featurette
  • In the Field: Locations” Featurette
  • Alamo Drafthouse Q&A with Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch
  • Digital HD Copy
Final Thoughts:

Based on the based on the best-selling book series by Vince Flynn, American Assassin is a middling espionage thriller that started out well, but failed to negotiate a wholly gratifying finish. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, featuring an excellent Ultra HD video rendering (which includes Dolby Vision HDR), top notch high definition video, involving lossless surround sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and a fair supplemental package. American Assassin isn’t a perfectly executed genre entry, but it musters enough merit to warrant a rental when you’re in the mood for a bit of espionage on movie night.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems