Directed by Michael Cuesta (Homeland, Six Feet Under) and staring Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien, American Assassin hopes to bring a new action hero a la James Bond or Jason Bourne, but sadly lacks the charm and humour of the first and the subtlety of the latter. Written by Stephen Schiff and adapted from Vince Flynn’s popular 2010 novel of the same name, the film tells the story of hot-headed CIA black ops recruit operative Mitch Rapp, who under the instructions of cold war veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) must learn to control his own anger and emotion in order to defeat his country’s enemies and those who personally wrong him.
After witnessing the brutal killing of his fiancée Katrina (Charlotte Vega) by Islamist terrorists, Mitch Rapp has nothing else left to lose. Harnessing all the bile and anger he has for those who took everything away from him, he makes it his mission to find the culprits and kill them one by one, no matter what it takes. When Rapp finally finds himself face to face with one of the men who killed his beloved, things don’t quite go the way he had planned and his meticulous plans are thwarted by higher powers that be. Recruited by CIA Deputy director Irene Kennedy (Sanan Lathan) who sees huge potential in him, Rapp is sent to train with Stan Hurley alongside other black ops hoopefuls. Soon Rapp finds himself involved in a convoluted story about a nuclear weapon which could kill thousands, and is transported halfway around the world to Turkey to find the culprits and stop them before it’s too late. .
O’Brien, although not your typical action hero, has oodles of charm and likability, he plays Rapp without too much ambiguity, but remains very watchable nevertheless. Keaton, who has seen a resurgence in his star value after his groundbreaking role in Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014), is sadly wasted on this badly executed production which could have definitely benefited from a certain amount of humour and a slightly more tongue-in-cheek dialogue. A disappointing debut for a new hero, but with the right director and a less flimsy screenplay, Rapp could easily take on Bourne and Bond at their own game – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Director: Michael Cuesta
Writers: Stephen Schiff (screenplay), Michael Finch (screenplay)
Stars: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan
American Assassin is in theatres from Friday the 15th of September.