Fic­tional badass Mitch Rapp hits the screen for the first time — and age is on his side

Empire (Australasia) - - Contents - WORDS IAN FREER

Not a movie about long walks on the beach.

SPI­DER-MAN HAS NOTH­ING on Dy­lan O’brien. Em­pire is watch­ing O’brien as Amer­i­can As­sas­sin’s hero Mitch Rapp evade lo­cal heav­ies by nim­bly scal­ing a vent like your friendly neigh­bour­hood counter-ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tive. Oc­cu­py­ing stu­dio space at West Lon­don’s Art Deco Gil­lette build­ing, the shoot is near­ing its mid­way mark. Next up, O’brien will mow down some bad guys in an Alfa Romeo.

Amer­i­can As­sas­sin, a 2010 globe-trot­ting thriller rooted firmly in real-world geopol­i­tics, is the 11th Rapp novel by the late Vince Flynn. It’s an ori­gin tale that por­trays Rapp as a young spook for the first time. The counter-ter­ror­ist agent is also O’brien’s first lead role since a ve­hic­u­lar stunt went awry on Maze Run­ner: The Death Cure in March 2016, leav­ing him se­ri­ously in­jured with concussion, fa­cial frac­tures and lac­er­a­tions. Eight months later, he’s back and un­der­tak­ing a six-week crash course in mixed martial arts and in­ten­sive weapons train­ing.

“I was wor­ried about be­ing able to pull this off,” he con­cedes of the stren­u­ous ac­tion beats. “It was a chal­lenge to find my feet in the train­ing. Fun­nily enough, I did get into the knife-throw­ing. It gets re­ally ad­dic­tive try­ing to find your dis­tance, find your ro­ta­tions and get it down.”

Rapp will need more than blade-lob­bing skills to sur­vive Amer­i­can As­sas­sin. Wit­ness­ing the death of his girl­friend at the hands of ter­ror­ists, the CIA black ops re­cruit goes rogue. Brought un­der the aus­pices of CIA di­rec­tor

Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), he’s as­signed to Cold War vet Stan Hur­ley (Michael Keaton) to track down mys­te­ri­ous op­er­a­tive Ghost (Tay­lor Kitsch). Pro­duc­ers Lorenzo di Bon­aven­tura and Nick Wech­sler de­vel­oped the char­ac­ter for nine years with Rapp as an adult, but chose to un­leash him as a younger spook in­stead. Their hope is to freshen up a genre archetype that is of­ten played by some­one a lit­tle older.

“Here we have a char­ac­ter who is com­ing to terms with what is right and wrong. That’s very dif­fer­ent from Bourne, Bond or any these types of char­ac­ters,” ex­plains di Bon­aven­tura.

Re­venge-driven he may be, but Rapp’s jour­ney should ul­ti­mately see him side with the good guys — al­beit, not be­fore he’s run down some bad ones.

Clock­wise from above: Mitch Rapp (Dy­lan O’brien) evades dan­ger in Turkey — recre­ated on set in Lon­don; Is Turk­ish agent An­nika (Shiva Ne­gar) to be trusted?; Martial arts train­ing with Michael Keaton; Get­ting im­mersed in the black ops moves.

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