Action junkies, your September fix has arrived. American Assassin is a no holds barred, ass-kicking action flick. It fires on all cylinders from the gut-wrenching start. Take whatever you know, or think about Dylan O’Brien and toss it out the window. The Maze Runner star transforms into an absolute beast. He is vengeance and ferocity personified. Director Michael Cuesta has delivered a whopper heading into this weekend at the box office. I was blown away by this film’s intensity.
American Assassin opens on a tourist beach in Ibiza. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) has just proposed to his girlfriend (Charlotte Vega). His moment of unbridled happiness turns to horror as Islamic terrorists attack the resort. Rapp watches in disbelief as his love is gunned down mercilessly. A year later, Rapp has become a different person. He has trained nonstop to infiltrate the cell that destroyed his future. Weaponry, the Quran, mixed martial arts, Rapp has turned himself into a lone wolf killer. He scours the dark web, pretending to be a disillusioned Yankee looking for martyrdom.
Rapp’s activities have not gone unnoticed. The CIA has been watching him for some time. Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) is the head of clandestine “black” operations. She recognizes that they have found the proverbial diamond in the rough. Kennedy enlists Rapp into a secret unit led by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a cutthroat veteran with zero tolerance for failure. Rapp’s time on the bench is fleeting. An old threat (Taylor Kitsch) has returned with catastrophic intentions.
American Assassin is the long stewing film adaptation of the Vince Flynn novel. The script had floated around Hollywood for a decade. Chris Hemsworth was attached to star at one point. Lionsgate Films and Michael Cuesta decided to make the character younger, more vulnerable. They struck gold with Dylan O’Brien. The actor, who was seriously injured on the set of the last Maze Runner film, bounces back epically here. O’Brien nails Mitch Rapp from every angle. You believe that he has turned his broken heart into stone. His performance is on par with Matt Damon’s debut as Jason Bourne. Let that sink in for a moment. O’Brien owns this movie.
Taylor Kitsch and Michael Keaton are tremendous in the supporting roles. Kitsch is an outstanding villain. He is a bad-ass times ten, the perfect foil to the Rapp character. Their cat and mouse game leads to a brutal showdown. The climactic fight is worth the price of admission by itself. Audiences have not seen this type of performance from Michael Keaton. The veteran actor continues to amaze. This is a helluva follow-up to Spiderman: Homecoming.
American Assassin, if you haven’t gotten the gist so far, is insanely violent. Michael Cuesta was aiming for gritty realism and hits the bullseye. There are no moments of humor or levity. It is wall to wall action with barely a breath in between. The heroes and villains are equally ruthless. There is no political correctness or nuance. It’s an hour and fifty minute beat down. If you can’t stomach that, this isn’t the Lionsgate movie for you. If you savor the sweet sounds of bullet fire, explosions, and bone-crushing fights, get tickets for the Thursday night screenings. You will not be disappointed.