Over the past three years, Michael Keaton has created memorable characters in Birdman, Spotlight, The Founder, and even Spider-Man: Homecoming. So maybe he’s earned the right to bluster and snarl his way through this creaky, clichéd thriller about nuclear-minded terrorists, the secretly soulful killing machines who must hunt them down, and the women who must give love to those killing machines, motherly and otherwise. But that doesn’t mean anyone should feel obligated (or even inclined) to watch. Inspiration does at least show up in the casting, as Dylan O’Brien’s New Recruit replaces Taylor Kitsch’s Former Favorite Gone Bad (at one point, Kitsch even asks, “Where’s the new me?”) even as O’Brien is here set up to replace Kitsch as an action hero (hey, remember Battleship? John Carter?). And in a better movie, Keaton could have made hay out of his unsentimental lone wolf. There’s plenty of talk about American Sins in American Assassin, but none of it changes the fact that the bad guys want to do bad things and must be stopped, so there really isn’t much point to all that chatter. Michael Cuesta directs. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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