This underrated 2017 action movie is a big Netflix hit right now. Here’s why you should watch it

A man holds a gun in American Assassin.

In 2017, American Assassin only had a short stay at the box office on its way toward a disappointing $67.2 million worldwide gross. That seemingly put an end to any ambitions to turn the late Vince Flynn’s action-thriller novels into a cinematic franchise. But as we’ve seen so many times before, the Netflix effect can change everything. Shortly after its arrival on the platform, American Assassin topped the charts of Netflix’s 10 most popular movies.

American Assassin plays like a throwback to 1980s action flicks, as former Teen Wolf star Dylan O’Brien steps into a leading role as Mitch Rapp. All Mitch wanted to do was enjoy his life with his girlfriend, Katrina Harper (Charlotte Vega). But after Katrina is killed in a terrorist attack, Mitch makes it his personal mission to hunt down the man responsible for her death. That brings Mitch to the attention of CIA Agent Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), who recruits him to join the black ops unit Orion. Mitch quickly proves that he belongs in the CIA, but his true test lies ahead when a former member of Orion threatens to destabilize the world with a nuclear weapon.

If you’ve been on the fence about this action flick, here are three reasons why you should watch American Assassin on Netflix.

Dylan O’Brien shows off his action hero potential

Dylan O'Brien in American Assassin.

O’Brien hasn’t really gained traction yet as an action hero, which may be because American Assassin didn’t light the box office on fire. But now that the film is a hit on Netflix, audiences can see how O’Brien sheds his teen idol look and actually appears to be fully capable of holding his own in a fight.

Physicality is only part of playing a great action hero. The quality that most would-be action stars lack is the ability to make the audience feel for them. O’Brien’s ability to emote allows viewers to have sympathy for him in his darkest moments, while also allowing them to root for him when he starts kicking terrorist butt around the globe. This wasn’t O’Brien’s breakout role, but it’s the kind of part that may lead him to something bigger in the future.

Michael Keaton delivers a great supporting performance

Michael Keaton in American Assassin.

Be honest: Have you ever seen Michael Keaton give a bad performance? He’s been in plenty of bad movies like 2023’s The Flash, but Keaton always delivers on his end of the bargain, regardless of the genre. Keaton’s role as Rapp’s mentor could have been a thankless and throwaway part. But somehow, Keaton manages to make his character compelling even during exposition scenes.

The biggest reason why Keaton works so well in this movie is that he is by far the most believable character in the flick, even more so than O’Brien’s Rapp. Everything about Keaton’s performance is convincing, and that goes a long way toward helping the audience buy into the stakes of the film.

Taylor Kitsch’s Ghost is a formidable villain

Taylor Kitsch in American Assassin.

The funny thing about Taylor Kitsch’s role in this movie is that he was also a teen idol thanks to his stint on NBC’s Friday Night Lights. Like O’Brien, Kitsch had some previous action experience to draw from, including a leading role in the incredibly underrated sci-fi flick John Carter.

American Assassin may be the first time that Kitsch had to play a true villain, and he really goes for the throat as Ghost, an ex-operative of Orion. As far as Ghost is concerned, he’s completely justified in getting his revenge on the CIA. And he’s more than willing to sacrifice his life to get his revenge on his country. Kitsch’s performance and physicality go a long way toward making him a convincing foil to both O’Brien and Keaton in this flick. Kitsch may not get many leading man roles any more, but he’s clearly got a great future as a cinematic bad guy.

Watch American Assassin on Netflix.

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