From Bond to Bourne, feature films dealing with international espionage generally follow a familiar pattern. The hero tends to either be driven by a deep patriotism or at least the bits and pieces of country loyalty that can be remembered. The spy operates in a world where there can be massive shootouts in crowded areas and only the bad guys get hit. Those gun battles are mixed with a romance that either’s sexist or emotionally forced.
“American Assassin,” based on the works of spy novel writer Vince Flynn, takes a very different and refreshing approach. Flynn’s 13 spy novels that started in 1999 with “Transfer of Power” rejected the traditional world of spies, moving the focus to a world that was no longer a tug-of-war between two super powers but often held hostage by a bevy of terror groups around the globe. The approach of the spies playing a chess-like game gave way to more straight-on conflicts.
Flynn did turn to a familiar trope in having the best interests of the United States being protected by a super secret organization under the auspices of the CIA. The latest recruit is Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a young man whose dislike for authority runs almost as deep of his hatred of terrorists. Rapp’s the biggest misdirection from standard spy lore as he’s not driven by loyalty or patriotism. A horrific act in his past has left him with a burning hatred to track down and kill as many terrorists as possible.
The CIA would like to channel that energy, and Rapp’s recruited by assistant CIA director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to join the super secret team under the guidance of Stan…
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