“American Assassin” is a tough-talking, scowling and ultimately generic action thriller assembled from the spare parts of other action thrillers. A little bit Jason Bourne, a little bit Jack Reacher, a little bit any other rogue hero you can think of, “Assassin” suffers from its self-seriousness and a sense that we’ve been here and seen this before.
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) is on vacation with his girlfriend in Ibiza when he decides to pop the question. Annoyingly, he’s using his phone to film himself proposing to her, so immediately you kind of hate the guy. But before he can even post the video to Instagram, his world flips when terrorists storm the beach and begin indiscriminately gunning down beachgoers, including his fiance of about four minutes.
Cut to 18 months later and Rapp has styled himself into a killing machine ready to take on the terrorists his damn self. His online activity gets him flagged by the CIA, who invite him to an secret, elite training program, headed up by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, always awesome, even in this terrain). Rapp is a natural — “he’s testing through the roof!” — and soon he’s off to stop the detonation of a nuclear bomb, which is in the hands of “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch), a former student of Hurley’s who’s gone bad.
“American Assassin” is based on Vince Flynn’s series of series of spy novels — there are 16 in total — and is the first chapter of a potential Mitch Rapp franchise. The scruffy O’Brien (MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” the “Maze Runner” movies) has the rebel action hero look down, but “American Assassin” is bogged down by its contrived, empty-headed script (credited to four screenwriters and less than the sum of its parts) and its macho chest beating. Consider it assassinated.
Rated R for strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity