Every great action hero needs an origin story. American Assassin‘s central character Mitch Rapp’s doesn’t start how you might expect. Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is your typical 20-something on a beautiful beach vacation with his girlfriend Katrina – who, following an aww-inducing proposal, becomes his fiancée. But before the two can celebrate their engagement, things go horribly wrong. Terrorists storm the beach, shooting down as many innocent people as they can – including Katrina. The loss of his fiancée changes Mitch, pushing him to the brink and making him determined to take down the terrorists who killed her.
Eighteen months after the incident, Mitch has transformed himself to the point of being nearly unrecognizable. His sole focus is his training, which includes intense workouts, weapons handling, and learning Arabic, with the goal of infiltrating and taking out terrorist cells… starting with the one responsible for Katrina’s death. His work as an aspiring vigilante doesn’t exactly go unnoticed, though. After surveilling Mitch, CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) convinces him to throw in with her team. She sends him to train with Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a respected Cold War veteran responsible for training an elite and secret task force. Rapp, Hurley, and Kennedy soon find themselves working together to stop their mysterious “mad dog” former operative (Taylor Kitsch) from using a nuclear weapon to wreak havoc and destroy countless more innocent lives.
I truly enjoyed American Assassin – and that’s speaking as someone who isn’t typically a big action movie fan. The movie had me at the edge of my seat the entire time (and with my jaw dropped for much of the final act). It’s vast and interesting, taking viewers all over the world and telling the story on a global scale. The plot is smart, emotionally investing, and surprising. There are some incredibly choreographed fight scenes, some of them with environmental factors that take the stakes even higher. (Keeping that last one vague to avoid spoilers, but it gets #INTENSE.)
And then, there’s our hero. So much of American Assassin‘s success is due to lead Dylan O’Brien. The Teen Wolf and Maze Runner star brings intensity, humor, and heart to the role of Mitch Rapp, making you immediately root for him. O’Brien has proven his acting abilities over and over again on his past projects, but this role is next level. We get to see Dylan at his most badass yet, taking on amazing stunts, wielding multiple weapons, and running the emotional gamut while making you feel everything that Mitch is feeling. In case there was any lingering doubt that O’Brien can hold his own as a leading man after The Maze Runner (which we also loved), this film should take care of that. He is absolutely magnetic.
The rest of the cast are also wonderful, particularly Keaton and Lathan. Michael brings strong nuance to the role of Stan Hurley, Rapp’s reluctant mentor. He effectively layers manic humor and ferocity, but you can still tell that Hurley has a heart (very way down in there). As the story escalates, Keaton is dealt some of the most difficult and grim material, and he tackles it head-on in unexpected and engaging ways. Lathan is also terrific as Irene Kennedy, repping for strong, independent women everywhere. She is the definition of a boss.
With solid fight scenes, an expansive story, and characters you can’t help but root for, American Assassin is my kind of origin story – and one that can appeal to even those who aren’t usually action movie people. Here’s hoping that we’ll get to see what happens next.
American Assassin hits theaters on September 15.
Will you be seeing American Assassin this weekend?
Featured Image via Entertainment Weekly