American Assassin ★★★★

Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) was a young American, wounded and traumatized in a terrorist attack while vacationing with his fiancée in Ibeza, Spain. That experience turned him into a hardened CIA active counter-terrorism agent, under the tutelage of grizzled agent Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). His first mission as a green agent sent him on the hunt for an embittered American terrorist with a stolen nuke called "Ghost" (Taylor Kitch.) That is the background for this involving thriller that actually thrilled me (not so easy for this jaded thriller fan.) The story was based on a series of books by Vince Flynn...a series that I had never read before. O'Brien, the actor chosen to play Rapp, seemed a little young at age 26 to play such a battle scarred veteran agent. However, this former star of the Maze Runner series has real charisma and action cred, reminding me of a young Tom Cruise. Michael Keaton has also successfully changed his image as he has aged, selling physicality and mental toughness that is a total change from his Mr. Mom days. And Taylor Kitch, playing a tormented villain was a revelation, a 100% revitalization of a promising career that seemed to have stalled portraying heroes. Finally, I was quite impressed by the way director Michael Cuesta balanced action and characterization about as skillfully as these films are able to do. Despite the over-the-top violence, I enjoyed this film a great deal; and I hope that it is successful enough to spawn a series of films.

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