American Assassin

First Hit:  Mildly entertaining.

The story begins with Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and Katrina (Charlotte Vega) frolicking in the water in an undisclosed foreign location. They are in love and, with his phone, he’s videotaping their time together which concludes with him asking her for her hand in marriage. She accepts and he goes to the beach bar to get them drinks to celebrate when a group of terrorists start shooting everyone on the beach. Mitch gets hit with two slugs and Katrina is shot dead.

The film moves forward eighteen months and Mitch has recovered and he’s clearly aiming for revenge because he’s taking mixed martial arts lessons, shooting lessons and has mastered Arabic because he’s communicating with ISIS operatives. He’s trying to get close to the people who killed his fiancé so that he can kill them, specifically Adnan Al-Mansur (Shahid Ahmed). He plans to infiltrate their organization by pretending to be a new western recruit, get close and kill him and everyone in that cell.

His plan gets foiled because he’s being watched by the CIA who find him fascinating and possibly someone they want on their team. Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) recruits him to be taught by a black ops trainer Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).

Typical issues arise as the young guy with guts and a clear personal mission tries to learn and be better than the grizzled veteran. Some of these scenes are rather good. As Hurley gets Rapp ready to become an operative, Kennedy learns that an old CIA operative, who goes by the name Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), has a stolen a small atomic device. This part of the story is not very well done, because the story wants the audience to believe that it is radical Iranian’s who are going to get the bomb, but there are too many hints to the contrary.

Because Ghost felt that Hurley left him to die, he wants to get back at Hurley by blowing up the sixth fleet.

Some of the bomb effects were interesting, as were some of the close fighting action that the agents get into. However, the film was predictable.

O’Brien was strong enough to make his character work. He used his intensity well. Lathan was very good as the CIA Deputy Director. Keaton was both strong and mediocre. I think the mediocre part was more of a scripting issue than Keaton’s fault. Keaton can be an excellent antagonist and more could have been done with this role. Shiva Negar as the in-country Iranian CIA agent Annika, was excellent. Kitsch was solid as the vengeful rogue agent. Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz all participated in creating the screenplay. This might have been the problem, too many cooks. Michael Cuesta directed this and the strengths were the fight scenes, which were well choreographed along with the interaction between Annika and Rapp were great.

Overall:  This could have been more exciting with more clarity in the story and it wasn’t.