American Assassin (NC16)
Starring Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch
Directed by Michael Cuesta
Warning: American Assassin will not sit well with folks coming for — whatchamacallit — escapist fun. Quite the opposite, the movie will remind them just how unsafe and unstable the world is: It opens with a horrific sequence where terrorists attack a holiday resort, and ends with a worst-case scenario involving a weapon of mass destruction. (Anxious yet?)
Between these harrowing situations lies the story of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a CIA black ops recruit thirsting for revenge. Rapp — based on a character in a book series by the late Vince Flynn — is a hothead who doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but his own. Which means, if you’re a bad guy, you’re the pallbearer at your own funeral he’s attending. (Yes, very American.)
The dependable Michael Keaton plays Stan Hurley, a Cold War spook assigned to rein in Rapp’s recklessness and school him in the nuances of geopolitical games. Together, they’re caught up in a Homeland-lite plot to avert a global crisis orchestrated by a rogue agent (True Detective’s Taylor Kitsch), who happens to be a disciple of Hurley’s.
It’s fascinating to watch O’Brien evolve from a sidekick on TV’s Teen Wolf to an action hero in The Maze Runner. And now, with American Assassin, he can add badassery to his job title. Sure, Rapp is still a bit rough around the edges but give him a few more tours, and he might become the next Jason Bourne (or Jack Reacher). (***)