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American Assassin

The time for diplomacy is dead - and so are the terrorists who threaten western ideals - in Michael Cuesta's testosterone-fuelled action thriller. Opening with a shooting at a Spanish resort, which is chillingly reminiscent of the 2015 Tunisian beach attack, American Assassin rampages across the globe, gleefully pulling the trigger on anyone who dares to desecrate a fluttering Stars And Stripes. The titular sharpshooter is played with a grimace by boyishly handsome Dylan O'Brien, who channelled his real-life recovery from a serious accident on the set of a previous film into this role as a grief-stricken loner, transforming himself into a weapon of destruction to take down his fiancee's murderers. O'Brien's innate likability cuts through his character's cold, mercenary exterior, and adds warmth to a propulsive picture that delights in spattering the brains of the enemy across the screen. Oscar nominee Michael Keaton sinks his teeth into scenery for a feverish chew as the hero's grizzled mentor, who has an endless supply of warmongering aphorisms. "The enemy dresses like a deer and kills like a lion," he riffs after one disastrous training exercise. Now we know who killed Bambi's mother. Mitch Rapp (O'Brien) is orphaned at the age of 14 when his parents die in a car accident. A few years later, his sweetheart Katrina (Charlotte Vega) is killed by merciless gunmen on a crowded beach in Ibiza, shortly after she agrees to marry him. Revenge boils in his veins and, over the next 18 months, Mitch metamorphoses into a gym-toned angel of death in order to infiltrate the terrorist cell responsible for Katrina's death, which is controlled by Adnan Al-Mansur (Shahid Ahmed). Before he can complete his suicide mission, Mitch falls into the clutches of Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), the CIA's deputy director in charge of counter-terrorism. She identifies his raw potential in the fight against America's enemies. "His psych profile is exactly what I've been looking for," she coos to her boss, Director Stansfield (David Suchet). They agree to train Mitch under Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Keaton), who oversees a covert operation codenamed Orion. The new recruit passes with flying colours behind fierce rival Victor (Scott Adkins). When a terrorist nicknamed Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) steals weapons grade plutonium to unleash on innocent American civilians, Stan flies to Istanbul with Mitch and Victor to collaborate with gutsy Turkish agent Annika (Shiva Negar). Adapted from the novel by Vince Flynn, American Assassin doesn't pretend to be anything other than a brute force battle of wits. The Jason Bourne films provide a template for bone-crunching fight sequences and car chases and director Cuesta competently orchestrates each bombastic set-piece to cajole his picture into second gear. The script repeatedly vaunts brawn over brains and the cast responds with muscular, snarling performances starved of emotion.