Review: American Assassin

Based on Vince Flynn’s 2010 novel of the same name, American Assassin is an action film straight out of the 1980’s Cold War Era – revenge, special ops teams, nuclear warheads, and a double-cross or two.

18 months after Mich Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) loses his girlfriend during a terrorist attack in Ibiza, his life is focused on training to kill the men behind the attack. Rapp, being unpredictable and a ticking time bomb waiting to explode, is approached by Deputy Director Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) who wants to recruit him for a special CIA operatives group to fight terrorism. If there was ever a cross-fit counter terrorism group, this is it.

The group is lead by Hurley (Michael Keaton), a grizzled, by-the-rules, old war veteran who trains the best of the best.

Their first mission is to find who is buying weapons grade plutonium to arm a nuclear warhead. The CIA has no leads except a mysterious man from Hurley’s past known as The Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). Rapp, Hurley, and the rest of the team hopscotch around the globe trying to catch up to The Ghost before plutonium ends up in the wrong hands.

There’s more espionage and heart sprinkled in, but none of that really matters. What matters is American Assassin really works as a revenge action movie. Hollywood’s churned out different variations of these films over the years – Rapp is the hothead who doesn’t follow orders, Hurley is the tough dad who follows the rules to a fault, and Ghost is a scorned ex who wants revenge on the country that turned its back on him. Characters turn their negatives into a positive to help save the day.

Even with American Assassin being a familiar film, it is very well executed. Clocking in at less than two hours, the story gets right to it and never lets up. There aren’t a lot of wasted moments. It’s as predictable as it is enjoyable.

Dylan O’Brien putting a beard on his baby face automatically turned him into an action star. His hipster barista beard is the perfect thing to help him transition from a kid actor to deadly assassin.  O’Brien is great with the hand-to-hand stuff plus he’s got the brooding anti-hero stare down perfectly. All jokes aside, O’Brien has the making to be the next big action star if he picks the right projects.

Michael Keaton may be having the most fun out of anyone in this film. He’s got a few crazy Keaton scenes that will make audiences laugh and remind them how much fun it is to watch Keaton. The big surprise was the performance from Shiva Negar who plays Annika, the badass Turkish agent assisting the team. Negar gave a strong performance in her supporting role. Her character, Annika, wasn’t a seductress or used to distract men in a cocktail dress, she was one of the most dangerous agents on the team and probably the bravest. I would love to see Negar pop up in a Mission Impossible or Bond movie, she’d be perfect.

The best part in this entire film: The triumphant return of Taylor Kitsch. That’s right! Kitsch is back and he’s out for revenge this time. Sadly, he’s not onscreen as much as he should be. However, with the time he’s given, Kitsch delivers his best, “You did this to me!” villainous performances. Hopefully, this is the first in a long line of roles starring Kitsch as the villain.

American Assassin is a well made action film that does everything it needs to do and does it well. There aren’t many surprises or plot twist audiences won’t see coming – its easily digestible, end of the summer fun. O’Brien shows he has the skills to carry an action film franchise and breathe new blood into the genre. Let’s hope there’s more to come soon.

Grade: B

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