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Film review: ‘American Assassin’ relies on outdated thrills

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Keaton takes aim in American Assassin.
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Two stars

American Assassin Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan. Directed by Michael Cuesta. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

The late Vince Flynn wrote 13 novels about superspy Mitch Rapp, building a dedicated fan following that helped bring Rapp to the big screen with the origin story American Assassin. But whatever drew fans to Rapp doesn’t seem to have made the transition to the movies, as Assassin is a generic, outdated action thriller with clunky dialogue, one-dimensional characters and mediocre action. Flynn worked as a consultant on 24, and Assassin director Michael Cuesta helmed multiple episodes of Homeland, and the movie comes across like a knockoff of those two espionage series, with Rapp (played by Dylan O’Brien of the Maze Runner movies) as a poor man’s Jack Bauer.

A lone wolf who doesn’t play by the rules, Rapp is more interested in getting revenge for the death of his fiancée during a terrorist attack than he is in solving geopolitical conflicts. His mentor/commander Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton, on autopilot) tries to keep him in line, but of course it’s Rapp’s brutal (and totally illegal) tactics that actually save the day. The plot about a rogue agent (Taylor Kitsch) stealing a nuclear bomb is generic and climaxes with a clichéd ticking clock, and O’Brien, even all muscled up, still exudes too much of a petulant-teen vibe. It’s hard to imagine this version of Rapp having the same enduring appeal as his prose counterpart.

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