A tough-as-nails actioner, American Assassin is an enjoyable, if cliched thriller starring Dylan O’Brien as author Vince Flynn’s literary hero Mitch Rapp. Coming across like Jack Ryan’s brawnier cousin, it features a lot of violent action and strong performances, but it can never shake the feeling that it’s all been done before.
O’Brien’s Rapp is just a regular dude, holidaying with his girlfriend in Ibiza when she’s killed in a terrorist attack. Overcome with rage, Rapp trains himself so that he can take down the terrorists on his own. His erratic behaviour catches the eye of the CIA who think that he might have what it takes to join their anti-terror section. Under the guidance of Michael Keaton’s Stan Hurley, Rapp is trained in the way of the special forces. When Taylor Kitch’s ‘Ghost’ steals some weapons grade plutonium (is there any other kind in a movie like this?), Rapp goes globe-trotting but his unorthodox style leaves a lot of destruction in his wake.
There’s much to enjoy in American Assassin – Keaton has fun playing the gruff and grizzled instructor, Kitsch is excellent as the rogue agent and the action sequences are all well put together. Dylan O’Brien holds his own as Rapp, but he just seems a bit too young to be such as badass – I had a tough time believing he could take down Scott Adkins in hand-to-and combat. Another problem was that the CGI fueled finale was out of kilter from the rest of the film, as if director Michael Cuesta felt compelled to throw-in some spectacle to appeal to the Transformers crowd.
Based on a Mitch Rapp prequel novel by Vince Fylnn, American Assassin has a lot in common with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Both show how iconic literary characters started their careers and how they were mentored by a senior agent (Kevin Costner co-starred in Jack Ryan). While Ryan is more tactical, Rapp reacts with his fists and American Assassin feels like a reaction to the muted response to the Ryan film – bigger, bolder and more action packed.
A slick and well put together piece, American Assassin is a solid franchise starrer. O’Brien has the potential to grow into the role if the series continues, but it’s a shame the film doesn’t offer something a little more original in the story stakes.
American Assassin comes well packed with of extras. Five featurettes (running about 10 mins apiece) on character and production as well as a 26 minute Alamo Drafthouse Q & A O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch.