American Assassin is clearly another case where the books are probably better than the movie. It’s a rocky start to a franchise series at best and that’s under the assumption that a film franchise will be launched following the release. Viewers will certainly get something as people see it at the cinema but there’s surely other things out there that are better recommended. If this had been made in the 1980s, it would be the film passed on by both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme before arriving in another actor’s hands.
Directed by Michael Cuestra from a screenplay written by Stephen Schiff and Michael Finch and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz, based on the novel by the late Vince Flynn, American Assassin stars Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, David Suchet, Navid Negahban, Scott Adkins, and Taylor Kitsch.
Who is Mitch Rapp (O’Brien)? That’s what this film is determined to show us. Here’s what we do know: if the events at the start of the film don’t take place, there wouldn’t have been a movie and maybe we’d be better off for it. There are good spy thrillers and bad spy thrillers. This one falls closer to the bad side of things.
In a state of mind where he goes all-out vigilante on terrorists, Mitch ends up being recruited to join the CIA’s black ops team, Orion, led by Stan Hurley (Keaton), a veteran of the Cold War. At the Farmhouse, Hurley doesn’t think Mitch is the right person to be a member of the team and doesn’t think he’ll last long. Mitch is determined to prove him wrong and show Hurley why CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Lathan) has placed so much faith in him. The two may disagree on their tactics but Mitch and Stan have respect for each other.
Orion gets enlisted to go after an operative known only as the Ghost (Kitsch) as he’s stolen 15 kilos of plutonium with the plan to start World War 3. Without spoiling it, the Ghost is representative of global terror and how you never know when you expect it. In going after him, Mitch teams up with Annika (Negar) as they go across the globe in search of him in their attempt to avert a war. The two have a clear bond with each other even as there’s more there than meets the eye. It’s almost as if Annika is a replacement Bond girl.
As a CIA trainer, Hurley has his own rules and among those is to not make things personal. Does Mitch listen to these rules? Just wait and see. Fresh off of playing the villainous Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Keaton’s take on Hurley comes off as the sort of guy you’d want training you for a Black Ops team.
Kitsch was destined for stardom at one point following the success of Friday Night Lights but John Carter flopping at the box office certainly derailed his career. Maybe Only the Brave will get things turned around for the actor.
What the franchise does get right is starting off with the prequel to the series so that we find out who Mitch Rapp is before he climbs up the ladder. This is something that we didn’t get with Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series as those books made their way to film. Recasting aside, the Jack Ryan films started off later in the CIA agent’s career before seeing the prequel film years later in what was supposed to be a series reboot. Of course, it failed and they rebooted it once more. The only difference is that the book was set years earlier then the film.
There are other quality espionage thrillers out there. If you want a good spy movie in general, it may just be best to hold off a week until Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets released (disclaimer: I’ve yet to screen it but I have my faith in the film based on the trailer alone).
CBS Films and Lionsgate will release American Assassin on September 15, 2017.
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