Is Mitch Rapp the new Jason Bourne?
THE Jason Bournes and Jack Ryans of this world are seemingly out of the movie game for now. Perhaps for good.
Therefore the way is clear for a younger, hungrier, and cooler spy guy to step forth from the shadowy world of international espionage.
So say hello to (and then duck for cover from) Mitch Rapp, a can-do counter-terrorism operative rapidly and ruthlessly rising through the ranks of the CIA.
The most popular creation of the late best-selling author Vince Flynn, Rapp (played by Maze Runner heart-throb Dylan O'Brien) needs an all-stops-out origin story to find quick traction with audiences.
A rudimentary run-and-gun action thriller, American Assassin does the job in largely workmanlike fashion, save for the surprise sighting of prestige actor Michael Keaton (Birdman, Spotlight) getting his kicks as Rapp's tough old boot of a mentor.
We first meet Mitch Rapp in what is frankly a disturbing re-enactment of the kind of random terrorist attack that exclusively targets Western tourists at third-world holiday resorts.
One moment, Mitch is proposing marriage to his girlfriend on the beach.
The next moment, a squad of gunman are methodically moving up and down the shoreline, calmly shooting anyone in their path.
Suffice to say, in the aftermath of this incident, Mitch won't be booking a honeymoon, but he will have a major motivation to fight terrorism wherever he can lay his hand on it.
After single-handedly infiltrating an murderous ISIS-ish cell in the Middle East of his own accord, the CIA is sufficiently impressed to offer Mitch a starting position on their team.
Enter Stan Hurley (Keaton), a legendary coach of covert killers who has the job of shaping Mitch's 24/7 quest for personal vengeance into something with long-term political gain for US interests overseas.
Keaton is clearly slumming it for an easy payday here, but he doesn't just coast along on his reputation.
Whenever he shares the screen with O'Brien, the inexperienced leading man suddenly rises in stature and ability to impress.
Even if the wonky storyline propelling American Assassin doesn't quite pick you up - later, Rapp and the gang are chasing a rogue ex-agent (Taylor Kitsch) trading in dirty nukes - a completely over-the-top finale will still get you over the line.
Stars: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar.
Director: Michael Cuesta
Rating: MA 15+
Verdict: 2.5 stars