By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

A fun thriller hobbled by stale dialogue from every action-thriller movie the collective screenwriters have ever seen.

Based on the novels by the late Vince Flynn, the multiple screenwriters – Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz – threw everything they have ever written and put it in here.

Could the novel by Vince Flynn have such ridiculous, stale dialogue that has been used in every action-thriller movie the collective screenwriters have ever seen?

Pre-black-ops assassin Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is just about to propose to his girlfriend Karina (Charlotte Vega) while they are on vacation in Ibiza when – surprise, at the very moment the ring comes out – a band of terrorists heretofore having walked on the beach without swim trunks but waving machine guns, mows down the lounging sun lovers. Including you-know-who.

Mitch has a purpose – he intends to avenge the death of his beloved. He bulks up, becomes a skilled marksman and an adept at martial arts. He is so dedicated to his personal jihad that he even learns Arabic!

Somehow Mitch finds out what Libyan cell is responsible for Katrina’s death. But before he can kill the mastermind of the operation, Mansur (Shahid Ahmed), he is interrupted by the CIA. He has been under surveillance by CIA’s all-seeing, all-knowing cameras.

At CIA headquarters everyone is duly impressed what Mitch has achieved without their help. Counterterrorism chief Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan, in a negative attention-getting Cleopatra wig), insists to the CIA director (David Suchet) that Mitch has the psychological profile of a killer. In his favor is that he has no attachments since he is an orphan. He has been damaged by losing the love of his life.

So far, seen all that.

Now Mitch is no pussy but he needs special training. Since we have seen Mitch break the gentleman’s rules of wrestling, we know he’s a born killer but lacks finesse and thinking his moves out like a chess player. We also know that his trainer is going to be one hell of a bastard: Tough, mean, stoic and super-fit.

Its CIA trainer Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). He’s an ex-Navy Seal running a very select training camp in the Virginia woods.

Mitch is not Hurley’s only student. Mitch’s success at the crafty training only proves that Kennedy sure knows how to pick potential assassins.

Where have we heard this bit of dialogue? “He’s testing through the roof!”

There is nothing original here in story or dialogue. When Hurley pronounces Mitch ready, he along with Mitch and fellow trainee, Victor (Scott Adkins), go into the field. Their mission is to find the weapons-grade plutonium that’s always missing from a Russian facility.

If we were to make a list of all the Russian plutonium that has gone missing in movies, we would access the Russians as totally incompetent in looking after such a valuable commodity.

The CIA group is assisted by a beautiful Turkish agent, Annika (Shiva Negar), who hasn’t gone through Hurley’s program but can kick ass alongside Victor and Mitch.

Following the terrorism 101 script, the Hurley gang finds an arms dealer, Sharif (Khalid Laith), who leads them to the Iranian nuclear physicist (Sharif Dorani) who will use the plutonium to make a bomb. This physicist is from the Hollywood school of physicists.

I wish one of the collective screenwriters had actually met a few nuclear physicists to tease something original out of one of them.

Since the physicist is a loss-leader, we finally meet the villain, Ghost(Taylor Kitsch). He’s an American who, wouldn’t you know it, has a personal gripe against…Hurley.

There is a terrific scene when Hurley becomes Ghost’s hostage. And it is here where one of the screenwriters went off the reservation and wrote something unique. Or maybe it was the writer who did the uncredited polish.

As the need for dialogue slows done, the action sequences take over and AMERICAN ASSASSIN become thrilling and highly effective. There are impressive scenes on a speedboat and the sea that make one forget the cut-and-paste screenplay.

For this, special mention should go to the director Michael Cuesta, cinematographer Enrique Chediak, editor Conrad Buff IV and Production Designer Andrew Laws.

There is a franchise lurking here and Dylan O’Brien has been transformed from a bland teenage heart-throb to a man with an anguished face to match his rules-breaking special agent persona.

Keaton’s rebirth continues! He is everywhere in every movie. His next director should keep his pursed lip tick checked. He looks great and one should admit that his years from the screen paid off.

Let’s see more of Ghost.

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Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at 

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5.00 avg. rating (93% score) - 1 vote

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