Bourne to be mild

By-the-num­bers spy flick seems all too fa­mil­iar

Kingston Whig-Standard - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com

From its rogue op­er­a­tives to its dou­ble-crosses and “don’t trust any­one” speeches, stolen nukes and a splash of Euro-lo­cales,

Amer­i­can As­sas­sin is a new spy movie that feels a lot like all the old spy movies. Call it The Bourne Sim­u­lacrum. Dy­lan O’Brien (The Maze

Run­ner) stars as Mitch Rapp, set on a trail of bloody vengeance when ter­ror­ists gun down his fi­ancé of five min­utes while the two are on a re­sort va­ca­tion. Lit­tle more than a year later, Mitch has be­come a self­made, one-man expert in Ko­ranic wis­dom, the Ara­bic lan­guage and weapons tech­nol­ogy. He’s then re­cruited by the CIA, which wants him to come in from the cold.

Sanaa Lathan is deputy di­rec­tor Irene Kennedy, but Mitch’s real con­tact in the agency is Stan Hur­ley, played by Michael Keaton in the type of role that gen­er­ally goes to Kevin Cost­ner these days (see Jack Ryan: Shadow Re­cruit, 3

Days to Kill, etc.). Keaton is hav­ing far more fun than you will at this movie.

Mitch’s train­ing makes for a manly ap­pren­tice­ship, con­ver­sa­tion in­ter­spersed with fight­ing and the oc­ca­sional elec­tric shock. Pupil and teacher are con­stantly feel­ing each other out, search­ing for weak­nesses. If there weren’t a com­mon threat in the form of black-mar­ket plu­to­nium, they’d prob­a­bly kill each other.

In­stead, Mitch and the rest of Stan’s team have to track down and elim­i­nate the bad guys be­fore they can build a nu­clear trig­ger and hi­jack a physi­cist. Just about ev­ery­one men­tions at some point that Mitch shouldn’t be trusted — and it turns out they’re right — but Stan is will­ing to look the other way as long as he gets re­sults.

Oc­ca­sion­ally these re­sults re­quire quick shoot­ing and even quicker think­ing — or no think­ing at all. Hard to tell the dif­fer­ence some­times. Other times it’s quick driv­ing, with Mitch slalom­ing around per­fectly spaced cars on the streets of Rome. This is where your sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief may be bro­ken, since if there’s one tru­ism about Ro­man traf­fic, it’s that the cars are never even close to per­fectly spaced. A quar­tet of writ­ers adapted

Amer­i­can As­sas­sin from the 2010 novel, di­rected by Michael Cuesta (TV’s Home­land). The cast is a mostly for­get­table lot of snarling vil­lains and sac­ri­fi­cial he­roes, although Ira­nian-born Shiva Ne­gar does a good job as the req­ui­site ex­otic in­tel­li­gence agent and pos­si­ble love in­ter­est.

Still, the fo­cus re­mains squarely on O’Brien, whom you can see treat­ing this as an ex­tended screen test for a hoped-for fran­chise. Af­ter all, with 13 Mitch Rapp nov­els al­ready on the book­shelf from Vince Flynn, and three more by Kyle Mills since the orig­i­nal au­thor’s death, there’s am­ple op­por­tu­nity for Rapp to re­turn. Let’s just hope he finds some­thing to dis­tin­guish him­self from the Jack Ryans, Jack Bauers and Ethan Hunts of the world. “Based on a novel” is about the only thing novel about it.

HANDOUT

Dy­lan O’Brien stars as Mitch Rapp in Amer­i­can As­sas­sin.

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