REVIEW: American Assassin (2017)

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Vince Flynn’s iconic novel character comes to life in this action-packed thriller that could be Dylan O’Brien’s ticket to action hero status.

Mitch Rapp’s life is turned upside down the day he proposed to longtime girlfriend Katerina. On that fateful day, a terrorist attack on the beach results in him being injured while Katerina was brutally murdered. Eighteen months later, Mitch still holds that anger within him and decides to attempt to become a one-man army against a top terrorist cell. What he doesn’t know is that someone has been tracking him, resulting in a successful rescue of Mitch and the death of the cell’s leader.

Mitch is recruited by CIA deputy director Irene Kennedy to become a member of a covert operation team within the division. If anyone can tame Mitch’s violent habits, it’s ex-Navy SEAL Stan Hurley, who doesn’t believe Mitch is capable of doing what’s right. Despite Mitch’s emotional issues, the CIA has learned that plutonium has been stolen from Russia and the thief plans to arm a bomb. When Stan and Irene discover who the perpetrator is, they intend to stop him at all costs, but it just might take someone like Mitch to accomplish this dangerous mission.

Based on the Vince Flynn book that would spawn a series of novels, this is a formal film version introduction to Mitch Rapp. A young man recruited by a covert unit within the CIA, Rapp would be the focus of fifteen novels, including three written by Kyle Mills after Flynn’s passing in 2013. This film, taking the title of the 2010 novel, serves as an origin story with some noticeable changes.

Coming off his near-fatal injury on the set of The Maze Runner: The Death Cure (which will finally be released in January 2018), Dylan O’Brien proves with his role of Mitch that he can in fact get past the “young adult” novel brand and come off as possibly a straight-turn action hero. As Mitch, we see O’Brien bring a level of emotion that goes from happy in the opener to a bitter and tortured soul that lusts for revenge, all because he has not gotten over everything and becomes reckless. Mitch is not only skilled in firepower, but is quite adept to the likes of MMA and Krav Maga and O’Brien brings out the trooper in himself with his fight scenes, which were arranged by Markus Shakesheff after undergoing training from Roger Yuan.

While Sanaa Lathan’s Kennedy is the catalyst to bring Rapp in, Michael Keaton truly stands out as trainer/handler Stan Hurley. Keaton, continuing his major comeback tour, plays Hurley as a tough-as-nail military type who truly takes nothing from no one. However, he does prove to be a good asset in terms of being both a mentor and as a warrior. Shiva Negar’s Annika is quite an interesting character in terms of where she stands in the mission while Taylor Kitsch perhaps churns out a role that brings him a sense of redemption after appearing in some less than stellar films (Battleship anyone?) and that is the central villain who seems to have some ties related to some of the characters involved. Scott Adkins makes the most of his screen time as Victor, a fellow recruit who does have a grounded fight against Mitch in a training scene, but does prove to be a viable asset.

Even if you haven’t read the novel, American Assassin is a thrilling ride as we see one man’s change from reckless and tortured soul to hero and this could be the film that could be the start of an action film career for lead Dylan O’Brien, and we mean away from the “young adult” brand.

WFG RATING: B+

Lionsgate presents a CBS Films production in association with Tik Films (HK) Ltd. Director: Michael Cuesta. Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler. Writers: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz; based on the novel by Vince Flynn. Cinematography: Enrique Chediak. Editing: Conrad Buff.

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Scott Adkins, Taylor Kitsch, Joseph Long, Navid Neghaban, David Suchet, Charlotte Vega.

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