1990s espionage thrillers found a cinema icon in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, who is being rebooted (again) by Amazon. Now, it looks like Hollywood wants to reinvigorate this subgenre by bringing another literary spy character, Mitch Rapp, to the big screen.
American Assassin is based on the 11th novel in the series by Vince Flynn, one that traces his origin story. Played by Dylan O’Brien (of Maze Runner fame), Mitch is a young man without a family who, after losing his fiancee to a terrorist attack, is drawn into the covert world of espionage and counter-terrorism.
Recruited by the CIA to join a group of clandestine operatives, he is subjected to a brutal training regime conducted by former US Navy SEAL Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Mitch’s determination and skills make him a top candidate but, driven by his personal pain, he is also a loose cannon.
Thrown into his first mission in Istanbul, he crosses paths with a mysterious renegade operative known only as Ghost (Gambit
Tim Riggins Taylor Kitsch) who is hell-bent on starting a third world war in the Middle East.
Watching the movie proves to be quite the nostalgic experience as it is reminiscent of the Jack Ryan movies from the 1990s, with its politically-charged plot and action-packed sequences. The fight choreography incorporates some savvy moves not unlike the kind we’ve seen in the Jason Bourne movies and it’s frankly quite mesmerising to watch.
The chameleonic Keaton, most recently seen as The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming (see our review) also tends to elevate any film he’s in. While his gruff mentor character Stan doesn’t really let him flex his acting muscles, he is perhaps the most compelling of the lot.
But this is as far as American Assassin’s entertainment value goes. We’ve seen characters like Mitch and Stan many times before and while O’Brien and Keaton performed admirably, they’re not remarkable enough to be memorable.
The same goes for Kitsch’s Ghost who suffers from the same problems that plague many a villain – he is underdeveloped and, like his predecessors, his sole mission to destroy the world lacks any interesting nuances. The poor man had so much going for him after Friday Night Lights but had to suffer the indignity of two box-office bombs in John Carter and Battleship. Here’s hoping his career gets back on the track with the upcoming Waco.
Speaking of cliches, the same can be said of American Assassin as a movie as well. We’ve seen it all before so it comes across as a generic spy actioner that falls short of the more landmark spy thrillers, such as the Tom Clancy adaptations and Jason Bourne franchise, that came before it.
Despite the quality cast, it is adequately entertaining thanks to the action, but largely unremarkable.
American Assassin is out in cinemas now. Did you catch it? Tell us what you think.