American Assassin feels like it sprang directly from the id of some wannabe militia man reading Soldier of Fortune during frequent toilet breaks, who imagines elaborate revenge scenarios about finding the terrorists who murdered his imaginary girlfriend and killing them with MMA. It’s a poor man’s Bourne, with all the tasteful vagaries of geopolitical spycraft stripped away until it’s just some pockmarked Steve Bannon type shouting about enriched plutonium to whip us into an ill-advised war with Iran. I’d always wondered what the Bourne series might look like if its authoritarian impulses weren’t so hedged and dull, and in that way, American Assassin is refreshing, like hearing a petty fascist finally openly advocate genocide.
Our hero is Mitch Rapp, from the prolific Vince Flynn’s series of crappy airport fiction, played by Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), who with some facial scruff and floppy hair feels a little like OC-era Adam Brody. (More like Adorable Assassin, am I right??) In the first scene, Mitch proposes to his bikini model girlfriend (played by Charlotte Vega) in the gentle waves of a Mediterranean resort, shortly before she gets blown away by AK-wielding jihadists and bleeds out on the sand before his very eyes. Like I said, points for directness.
While it’s unclear what Mitch’s job was before his baby left this world, after the terrorists kill his fianceé he turns himself into a kind of DIY counter-terrorism spy. This mostly seems to involve chatting in Arabic online and training at, I kid you not, “Troy’s MMA.” He spends his days being a giant dick to his training partners (using chokes that don’t actually exist — you can’t do a gi choke on a guy in a t-shirt) and his nights throwing knives at a black and white picture of Adnan Al-Mansur, kicking a big heavy bag in his thankfully open-floor plan apartment along the way. Because everyone knows that the way to stop ISIS is with a nice roundhouse. TERRORIZE THIS, MOHAMMED! (*cuts cantaloupe with katana*)