"American Assassin" is what I call a "paperback movie," a big-screen blow-up of the mindless distractions spilling off the racks of airport booksellers. Mindless distractions have their place; heck, they're Hollywood's bread-and-butter. But the likes of "American Assassin" are downright irresponsible in stoking fear of terrorism and making a hero out of a revenge-minded raw nerve. This origin story introduces 23-year-old orphan Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien in "The Maze Runner") as the victim of jihadi terrorists, who shoot up an Ibiza beach and rob him of his fiancee of five minutes.
In an utterly preposterous tall tale of American exceptionalism, Rapp immediately becomes a DIY super spy who texts and talks himself right into the terrorist cell's Libyan stronghold (O'Brien brings a grim, gym-trained physicality but, saddled with this script, comes off like Tom Cruise in training pants). A bit of machine-gunning later, Rapp finds himself in the hands of CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), who passes him to grizzled ex-Navy Seal Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, who should have known better) for his patented "Never let emotion cloud your judgement" training. Yes, Rapp's one "flaw" is losing his cool whenever there's a bad guy around.
And so "American Assassin" swiftly shifts from being extremely distasteful cultural poison to being extremely clich
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