Director: Michael Cuesta
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) had already lost his parents in a car accident as a teenager when tragedy struck again upon a holiday beach when, shortly after proposing, he sees his girlfriend murdered by terrorists during an attack along with several other tourists. Understandably Rapp is changed by the events and he resolves to become a vigilante and seeking out those responsible for the attack looking for some kind of payback. Unbeknownst to Rapp, the C.I.A. are monitoring him and are impressed with his work and he is soon assigned to train with Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) by Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan). The film details his change from an everyday young man to his training with Hurley and his early trips into the field.
Dylan O’Brien was something of an unknown quantity for me before this film. I’ve not seen any of the Maze Runner films and at first glance I thought he may be a little too clean-cut for the role he was playing. In fairness, that is part of the set up of his character. That he has gone from the guy on the street to revenge crazed vigilante as a result of the events on that beach. He does this well and is very enjoyable in the role.
Michael Keaton is a seasoned performer, that’s not in dispute. He has over the years appeared in some of the less well received blockbusters over the years but for the former dark knight this is one of his much more creditable appearances as mentor to Rapp. Naturally they clash and as Rapp tests Hurley’s strict disciplines both in training and in the field. Despite his marshalled approach Hurley also manages to display some equally crazed traits in the latter stages of the movie.
Sanaa Lathan was a little bit of a disappointment in my eyes. I expected a tougher, more strong-minded stance from the character of Irene Kennedy playing superior to both Rapp and Hurley. Maybe it’s the way the role was written that suffocated the output Lathan delivered, if so she can’t be held responsible for doing what was asked and for that to lack some punch.
Finally, Taylor Kitsch appears as “Ghost” who was a former trainee of Hurley’s now gone rogue. Kitsch is one of those actors I sometimes can’t actually tell if they deserve any merit but he does well here. Clearly a tortured soul with a desire to exact havoc upon his former superiors, it’s a gritty and determined performance from the True Detective star.
I was particularly pleased to find American Assassin was an 18 certificate in the UK. Firstly this means no kids in the cinema but more importantly it means the film won’t be holding back and it doesn’t. The opening scene is a quite horrific account of a terrorist attach upon a busy holiday beach. After this the film switches to being a very slow burning tale. So slow burning you did begin to wonder if it was going to come to and notable climax. This is where the film is quite clever, it builds the story well and introduces the characters methodically but without any tension as such. Then you get to the final twenty-five minutes and the film just roars into a breathless climax ending with some spectacular scenes at sea.
The verdict: 4/5 Stars: A more than competent thriller that slow burns and then comes to a roaring conclusion.