American Assassin review: an utterly brainless espionage caper

Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton exact vigilante brutality on a global scale

Shoot first, shoot later: Dylan O’Brien in American Assassin

Film Title: American Assassin

Director: Micahel Cuesta

Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Taylor Kitsch

Genre: Action

Running Time: 111 min

Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 18:02


Have you ever yearned for James Bond to be more proactively misogynistic and imperialist in his dealings with swarthy foreign types? Did you watch American Sniper and think: only 160 confirmed kills? Must try harder, dude.

Well, oh boy, have we got a brainless espionage caper for you. American Assassin miscasts Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner, Teen Wolf) as Mitch Rapp, a hot-headed millennial who immediately recalls that Pulp Fiction observation that American names “don’t mean shit”.

Mitch has just proposed to his virtuous, bikini-clad, childhood sweetheart at a sunny seaside resort when, minutes later, she is killed in a jihadist attack. Miffed, Mitch learns Arabic, does pull-ups, punches bags, and throws knives at pictures until he infiltrates the cell that killed his girlfriend, leading the viewer to wonder if there’s a Tinder-style app that can hook you up with the terrorist who wronged you.

His ruthless psychopathy brings him to the attention of CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan, criminally wasted) who calls in Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, more criminal wastage) to act as Mitch’s new dojo and train him in for Black Ops duties. Interview process: “So you just thought you’d destroy Mansour and his entire cell?” asks Irene. “For starters, yeah” comes the surly response. That’s enough to land the titular murderer a dream job “killing people who need to be killed”.

What follows will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever watched a spy movie before. Read the following phrases and locations in any order: foxy Turkish lady agent, weapons-grade nuclear material, Poland, presumed dead agent re-emerges, Rome, Iranian plot. Stay tuned for such ripe dialogue as “I know what it’s like to lose someone, too”.

The climactic showdown between Mitch and the unimaginatively named rogue agent Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) sees the pair bringing knives and fisticuffs to a nuclear standoff.

  A coda, which stops just shy of an accompanying “badum-tish”, flips a middle finger at democratic process. It’s a fitting end to a film that calls for unilateral action and vigilante brutality on a global scale. There are 15 more novels in the Mitch Rapp series. Who will save us from American Assassin 2?