here was a period in my life in which I was going through a bad breakup, so the only books I read had to have at least five sequels or I wouldn't waste my time. I figured I could dive deep into some fictional character's world without having to think about my own sad, cat-filled existence. This is when I discovered characters including Jack Reacher, Harry Hole, FBI agent Pendergast and Mitch Rapp.
I know I read the book, "American Assassin," by Vince Flynn, which gave the backstory to the tortured anti-hero Mitch Rapp, but I couldn't remember anything about it. I took a look at the book again in anticipation for the film, but I was still at a total loss. That might be why I quit reading the series, or it could be an alarming early-warning sign about my short-term memory. I do remember that some of the books are pretty goofy, addictive and fun, while the movie is more deadly serious than Bourne's identity.
Moments after he proposes, Mitch Rapp's fiancee is gunned down in front of him by unnamed terrorists killing people for no apparent reason—so Rapp does what any rational human would do and becomes a killing machine, dedicated to murdering every terrorist he can track down. He installs himself in a terrorist cell with no help from the U.S. government, where a kill team snags him and decides to actually give him some training before sending him to kill bad guys.
Dylan O'Brien is fine as Rapp, who's so angry and dead inside at this point in his story, that there's not much reason to root for him. He's a dick. Sure, revenge is always fun to watch in movies, but we know it's not gonna help him become a normal human person again. More than killing a bunch of strangers, he might need some melatonin and some time at a day spa. Rapp is so serious and the film he's in takes him so seriously that there's no fun to be had...even from a premise that's inherently goofy.
t one point, we have National Treasure Michael Keaton deliver the line, "That's a shit load of plutonium!" I giggled like a child, but I shouldn't have. After he says the line, everyone else in the scene nods their heads solemnly like, "Yeah, you're right! That is a veritable shit load of plutonium." If you're making a movie about a 24-year-old guy teaming up with Michael Keaton to fight Tim Riggins from "Friday Night Lights" over a shit load of plutonium, then you'd better have that tongue deeply planted in your cheek or else make the explosions so massive that no one cares. We've all seen a shit load of plutonium in movies before, such as in "American Assassin," and, unless your name is "Back to the Future," you'd better do something awesome with it.
I know everyone involved with this wanted another "Bourne" franchise or maybe even a "Patriot Games," but they don't even have a "Sum of All Fears." There's some decent action and Dylan O'Brien can carry a movie, but "American Assassin" is as disposable as they come: Empty calories that taste pretty good going down, but an hour later you're hungry, confused and wondering where you were for the last two hours.
Dir. Michael Cuesta
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Redmond Cinema.