By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
has a ways to go before earning his way in the Jason Bourne, John Wick and John McClane action hero club. However, he makes a notable first impression with his debut, leading man role in the new movie,“American Assassin.”
O’Brien is best known for his star turn in the MTV series, “Teen Wolf” and more recently in the “Maze Runner” movies.
In “American Assassin,” which is based on Vince Flynn’s best-selling novel series and directed by Michael Cuesta (“Kill the Messenger”), O’Brien plays an unhinged CIA counterterrorism operative named Mitch Rapp.
Mitch (O’Brien) never wanted to become a hired killer. He didn’t join the CIA out of any patriotic duty. In fact, his life was rolling along just fine especially when his beautiful girlfriend Katrina Harper (Charlotte Vega, “Provenance”) accepted his marriage proposal as they frolicked on the beach in Ibiza Spain.
Then chaos erupts when a group of armed terrorists storm the beach shooting everyone and they kill Katrina.
Fast forward a year or so and we see Mitch looking scraggly and numb to the world while living in Rhode Island. He spends his time learning Arabic, becoming proficient with weapons and mixed martial arts.
Because revenge is a dish best served cold and Mitch is making it his mission to kill the lead terrorist Adnan Al-Mansur (Shahid Ahmed, “In Another Life”) and anyone else responsible for the Ibiza slaughter.
Mitch’s newly acquired special set of skills catches the eye of CIA director Irene Kennedy (a very good Sanaa Lathan, TV’s “Shots Fired” and “Family Guy”) who could use some young, talented and fresh blood in the agency.
Irene wants Mitch to join the CIA’s elite, clandestine, counterterrorism team which is headed by ex-Navy SEAL Stan Hurly (a terrific Michael Keaton, “Spiderman: Homecoming”).
But not everyone can make the cut in Stan’s brutal training regime. While Mitch is pretty badass, he still has a lot to learn. The problem is that Mitch likes to play by his own rules. That initially rubs Stan the wrong way because it puts Stan and his team--which includes the beautiful agent Annika (Shiva Negar, “The Art of More”)--in danger.
They are on the run from Manchester to Libya, Rome and Istanbul to take down an enemy operative named “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch, TV’s “Waco”) who was a former student of Stan’s, but has now gone rogue selling plutonium in Poland to use for nuclear weaponry.
There’s some history between Stan and Ghost that adds even more juicy layers to “American Assassin.”
And as good as O’Brien is here, Kitsch and Keaton bring the heat too. Keaton’s Hurley character goes from a cold, calculating by the book operative to full beast mode when he’s captured and taken prisoner by the terrorists.
“American Assassin” is an enjoyable and well-crafted spy drama that’s filled with eye-catching special effects and a wonderful cast. Perhaps best of all, with 13 additional Flynn novels left to draw from, this could be the start of a bold and exciting new franchise.
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Watch This Trailer For "AMERICAN ASSASSIN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.