AMERICAN ASSASSIN (director: Michael Cuesta; screenwriters: Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskowitz, based on the novel by Vince Flynn; cinematographer: Enrique Chediak; editor: Conrad Buff; music: Steven Price; cast: Dylan O’Brien (Mitch Rapp), Michael Keaton (Stan Hurley), Sanaa Lathan (Irene Kennedy), Charlotte Vega (Katrina), David Suchet (Director Stansfield), Navid Negahban (Minister Behurz), Scott Adkins (Victor). Shiva Negar (Annika), Taylor Kitsch (Ghost), Shahid Ahmed (Adnan Al-Mansur), Sydney White (Emily), Joseph Long (General Rostami), Mohammad Bakri (Ashani), Tolga Safer (Kamil, Sharif’s Assistant), Khalid Laith (Sharif), Sharif Dorani (Iranian Nuclear Physicist), Vladimir Friedman (Borys Bartosh); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura/Nick Wechsler; Lionsgate; 2017)
“Pure escapism.“ Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzAn underwhelming but slickly filmed wall-to-wall adrenaline-filled action picture in the style of a Tom Cruise “Mission Impossible” movie, but not even as credible. Director Michael Cuesta (“Kill The Messenger”/”Roadie”) keeps it as pure escapism, which might please a large audience that cares only about being entertained even if it’s all hokum. It’s based on the novel by Vince Flynn, the 11th of the 12 he wrote on counter-terrorism hero Mitch Rapp. Writers Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz neglect to put in any developed characters, in a script where logic is its first casualty. It opens on an Ibiza beach in Spain, where the American grad school tourist Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is vacationing with his girlfriend Katrina (Charlotte Vega). Elated his proposal is accepted, Mitch goes to get drinks when Muslim terrorists emerge from docked boats, led by Adnan Al-Mansur (Shahid Ahmed), and fire their Uzis into the crowded beach killing many, including killing Katrina and wounding Mitch. Back in Providence, Rhode Island, over the next 18 months, the seething Mitch drops out of school, grows a beard, learns Arabic, brushes up on Islam, learns martial arts and the use of weapons. Through the Internet he infiltrates a Libyan terrorist cell, the same one that was responsible for killing Katrina. His action has a CIA team wipe-out the cell. The raging revenge-seeking zealot impresses the CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) and she pushes him onto a counter-terrorism team run by the gruff former Navy SEAl Stan Hurley (Michael Keating), who turns him into a killing machine but is not pleased when he doesn’t obey orders.Mitch as part of Stan’s team tracks down plutonium stolen from the Russians and tries to stop a rogue physicist (Sharif Dorani) from turning it into a nuke for the terrorists. To do the mission, Mitch treks to Warsaw, Istanbul and Rome. In the end, he must save the Navy’s Sixth Fleet from the embittered bomb-throwing turncoat American mercenary called Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who was trained by Stan. It’s a film where there’s mayhem, explosions and danger at every turn; it’s a film that gives us the same old thriller story about spies, terrorists and black ops operations, but is just more excessive in stretching its heroics than most such films. As far as I’m concerned Keating seemed wasted in a role that gave him no wiggle room to show a personality, and I thought O’Brien, primarily known for his role in the TV series called The Teen Wolf, was miscast as the lead because he didn’t have the chops for throwing so many bloody punches as required and still looking as cool as someone like Cruise.
REVIEWED ON 9/16/2017 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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