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American Assassin | Movie Review

American Assassin is the movie-going worlds introduction to Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brienmain character from the novels of Vince Flynn.

Mitch is your typical anti-hero. It’s not just that he’s a picture perfect example of a ill-adjusted white guy in need of intense therapy to learn to cope with the horribly tragic event that forever altered the trajectory of his life that keeps him from being the hero type.

He’s young but highly intelligent, mentally agile, good with a gun, not afraid to get bloody, morally flexible but driven by a code that’s clear cut. Just like we like our heroes. But, Mitch isn’t interested in being a team player. He’s not interested in rules, guidelines, the chain of command, or waiting on someone else to make a plan. Mitch used a personal tragedy to fuel his rage. He turns his back on everything in his life in order to turn himself into a one-man-wrecking crew and then attempting to join a terrorist cell.

As a character, Mitch Rapp is a filmmaker’s delight and sixteen books in, there’s plenty of spy missions and misadventures to draw from when writing a screenplay. Which make it a little disappointing to have to say that the writer’s here couldn’t quite make up their mind whether or not they really wanted to make a Mitch Rapp movie.

American Assassin is more of an exercise in world-building than a flick focused on its main protagonist. Rapp’s backstory sets the stage for the film’s counterterroist themed storyline – and given the climate is anyone surprised they went with the tried-and-true potential nuclear threat from the Middle East (you know that relabeled landmass so we don’t have to say Africa) – and usual shadow CIA cloak and dagger shenanigans. There are a few twists when it comes to the overall players in the looming threat to the world’s but for the most part, it’s pretty standard fare.

What is unique about American Assassin, are the portions of the movie that pull back the curtain on the people who end up connected to the spy world. By focusing on Rapp’s entry into the world of covert operations, this film creates great moments. The scenes between Rapp and Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) are some of the most interesting because they introduce the real subplot of the movie which ultimately gets lost in the overall film. Michael Keaton brings swagger to an otherwise paper-thin character of Hurley making him such an interesting watch you almost wish the movie was about how he ended up working for the CIA instead of just the connective tissue between Rapp and Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) the shadowy character who always seems to be three steps ahead of Rapp and the Agency.

Unfortunately, action movie “necessaries” get in the way of an interesting plot angle. The “gotta save the world” over-arcing storyline was far less interesting than the action and interaction between the agents on the ground and their handlers. It took up too much onscreen time and made the end-product chunky, trite, and regrettably just a standard espionage action film than what should’ve been the opening salvo of the adventures of Mitch Rapp. I have hope for future movies but not much.

American Assassin gives really great action sequences, uses realistic fight choreography so you believe that a self-taught MMA aficionado could really hold his own with among elite operators, and does a fantastic job of introducing a new player (and his kick ass mentor) to the espionage game.

It just does in a needlessly – seriously they went for cheap cheers with this script – mediocre action film.

Grade: B – (which pains me to say because the books are good)

 


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