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AMERICAN ASSASSIN follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien), a CIA black-ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together, the three discover a pattern in the violence, leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on settling a personal and professional vendetta that could have cataclysmic results.
Target Aquired: Creating an American Assassin
Finding Mitch Rapp: Dylan O'Brien
Transfer of Power: Hurley and Ghost
Weaponized: Training and Stunts
In the Field: Locations
Alamo Drafthouse Q&A --Lionsgate
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The film opens with the gruesome scene of Mitch witnessing his fiance being murdered in cold blood during a terrorist attack on a beach. Driven by grief and an unyielding thirst for revenge, Rapp begins the process of infiltrating the terrorist group responsible for the attack. As a lone civilian in contact with some of the world's most wanted terrorists, he quickly catches the attention of the CIA. Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) takes a particular interest in Rapp. His personal drive, physical strength, and discreet investigative prowess could make him an ideal candidate for the agency's top secret Orion group.
Kennedy intervenes in Rapp's crazed mission to infiltrate the terrorist group and whisks him off to a remote cabin in the woods for training. Orion's operatives are trained and managed by Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Hurley instantly dislikes Rapp and argues that he lacks both the experience and mental fortitude to join the team. Soon the CIA learns that an American born terrorist "Ghost" is planning to construct a nuclear weapon, Rapp and Hurley are forced to put their differences aside for the good of the country.
I have a mixed reaction to this film. Much of the action and acting comes off as very "by the numbers". It is easy to see where the story is going, and the movie offers little in terms of political commentary or innovation. Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy myself. Michael Keaton shines as the ornery Hurley, reveling in every scene he's given. The arc of Rapp's character is much more developed and believable than it was in the novel, offering a true emotional payoff. O'Brien has the potential to grow into the role if another movie is made. A tease at the end of the film offers a tantalizing taste of things to come. While it never soars, American Assassin is still a solid action flick that marks a promising start to a potential franchise.