American Assassin has been dogged by more controversy than a Donald Trump tweet. Based on the novel series by the late US author Vince Flynn, the film was slammed earlier this year by families of the victims of the 2015 Tunisian tourist massacre for its opening scene – a brutal beach-based shoot-out in which Mitch Rapp’s (Dylan O’Brien) fiancée is gunned down.
It’s a harrowing opener, certainly, but it soon becomes clear that this film is less a comment on international terrorism and more of an action film in the traditional sense, with heavy hints of Die Hard spattered throughout.
A vengeful Rapp is soon recruited by the CIA to work as an undercover assassin, but not before he’s been coached by Michael Keaton’s Stan Hurley, a sassy, tough-as-balls Cold War veteran who lives in a cabin in the woods, where he trains recruits to become killing machines.
It’s clear that the renegade Rapp, in spite of – or perhaps because of – his penchant for risk-taking is a favourite of Hurley’s. Things get all the more silly when Hurley’s former top boy steps back into their world. Cue lots of fighting, fast-paced stunts, explosions, some rather gory ultra-violence and the threat of all-out nuclear war.
If you’re looking for insightful comment on the state of the world, however, American Assassin isn’t it.