American Assassin is a movie for fans of violent and uncompromising spy tales. It's also a movie that should please readers of the late Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp novels. It's not a movie that's going to play well with a lot of the reviewers whose opinions get aggregated at sites like Rotten Tomatoes. They won't like this movie and you shouldn't care. If you think you're interested, go see it.
The producers and director Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger) have made a couple of daring choices. They've avoided the (usually expensive) difficulties that come with making a period piece by setting the story in the present day. It's hard for some of us to think of the '80s as an historical era, but does it really matter which terrorist attack changed Mitch's life and fueled the rage that made him a great agent.
Second, they've started with the Mitch Rapp origin story in hopes of creating a series and cast an age-appropriate actor in Dylan O'Brien. He may look young for the part, but that's because Hollywood tends to cast too many guys in their late 30s in these kinds of roles. It may be a risk, but if viewers enjoy Dylan as much I did in the part, he'll be able to play Mitch Rapp for the next twenty years or more.
Michael Keaton is outstanding as Rapp's CIA mentor Stan Hurley and Taylor Kitsch relishes the opportunity to play the bad guy with some pitch-perfect abandon. Sanaa Lathan brings gravity to her role as a CIA boss and Shiva Negar's Iranian agent makes an excellent foil for Mitch Rapp.
We've got video interviews with the main cast, most of whom mention working with former Navy SEAL Joost Janssen. I spent the day at a SoCal gun range with Janssen yesterday and we'll have an interview with him coming up next week.
American Assassin has echoes of the early James Bond films. It's focused on direct combat (in spite of the nuclear bomb that plays a big part in the film) but Flynn's Rapp has an American rage and relentlessness in place of the reserve and arched eyebrows that Ian Fleming gave to Bond.
Check out the interviews below and head to the theaters this weekend.