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American Assassin

Based on Vince Flynn’s successful espionage book series, ‘American Assassin’ is another in a long line of ‘franchise builders’. These movies are designed to create an ongoing series that producers hope audiences will want to see. There have been dozens in recent years with so many making viewers dizzy. ‘American Assassin’ does its best to craft its’ own strong narrative. Fans of the novels should be reasonably pleased as its character-based story glides at a generally thrilling break-neck speed.

After his girlfriend is killed in a terrorist attack, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) seeks revenge. Enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene (Sanaa Lathan) as a black ops recruit, Mitch is put in the care of CIA veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) as his mentor. They investigate a series of attacks on military installations leading them to a mysterious enemy known as Ghost (Taylor Kitsch). Hell bent on starting war in the Middle East, Ghost becomes Mitch and Stan’s prime target if they want to prevent explosive conflict.

‘American Assassin’ is an agreeable time-waster without being particularly memorable. The plot is derivative of similar films with characters of the stock-standard clichéd variety. What ‘American Assassin’ has going for it are the performances and action. O’Brien makes for an engaging lead with Keaton having a great time as a grizzled spy veteran. They are supported by Michael Cuesta’s solid direction that makes the most of a sometimes obviously limited budget.

Whilst the ingredients are there for a marvellously exciting tale, ‘American Assassin’ often falls short. Whether it’s the confused screenplay or lack of urgent atmosphere, it never rises above the ordinary. It seems afraid to really let go and hit the action targets it needs to in order to conjure pure escapism. The performances of the leads’ co-stars are occasionally weak with dodgy CGI giving ‘American Assassin’ the ‘cheap and cheerful’ look it doesn’t need.

Charting a predictable course where it should carve its own niche, ‘American Assassin’ is less than it should have been. It does a competent job but never stands out from the crowded pack. Hopefully it isn’t yet another failed ‘franchise builder’ as it has more potential than most for cinematic longevity.

Rating out of 10: 6

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