Film: American Assassin
Cast: Michael Keaton, Dylan O’Brien, Taylor Kitsch, Shiva Negar, Scott Adkins, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet, Charlotte Vega, Mohammed Bakri
Director: Michael Cuesta
Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher have company (I shan’t say competition) in American Assassin, whose daredevilry straddles this ultra-violent action thriller based on a novel of the same name by Vince Flynn. Mitch (Dylan O’Brien) Rapp lost his parents in a car crash as a kid, but still managed to hold his head above water and find the love of a beautiful young woman. We see them frolicking on the beach, he has popped the question, she has said yes, and then, just like that tragedy at the Taj by the Gateway of India, a number of rifle toting terrorists show up, mowing down the frolickers, mercilessly.
Mitch lives. Not his adored fiancee. Fuelled by revenge on the rough edges of society, he is recruited for a boot camp mentored by Cold War veteran Stan (Michael Keaton) Hurley. CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) enlists Hurley and recruits in a black ops program to prevent (further ) attacks on the military and civilians by a “Ghost,” who wants to launch a nuke and ignite the Third world war in West Asia aka the Middle East.
Naturally, there are references to Israel/Mossad/Iran/Hezbollah and the narrative takes the viewer on a globe-hopping spree which covers the US of A, Italy, Russia, Poland, Libya, the UAE and Turkey where they team up with secret agent Annika (Shiva Negar) to stop the mysterious “Ghost” who is as sadistic as they come.
Consider his torture of the CIA spymaster: He is strung from the ceiling, his arm is clamped in a vise, his fingernails are yanked off, his chest is burnt with a blow-torch and his feet immersed in a water basin for electrocution. I squirmed in my seat. If only, the plot was as strong. For a movie about spies trying to avert a nuclear Armageddon, American Assassin is hobbled by a weak script.
To its credit, the ending is spectacular. The movie is beautifully shot. The fight scenes – and there are very many of these – are choreographed very well. The cast drawn from the world over sparkles, especially Keaton and O’Brien in the sawal-jawab of guru-chela but Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) doesn’t look remotely wicked despite his evil ways. It could be Cuesta has a point about the villain’s non-villainous countenance. Like: Thou shalt not judge the book by the cover.