Director Mike Cuesta's last feature length film was the poorly received thriller "Kill The Messenger" with Jeremy Renner in the lead. It had a suitable amount of action and was based on mostly true stuff, but was a subject that not many people cared about - the CIA's involvement in drug trafficking.


Cuesta hopes to do a little better by diving into the "let's kill terrorists" pool. All red-blooded Americans like to see a few hundred terrorists get wiped by one or two American killers. This is the version of the CIA Americans like to watch.


He opens the film with Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) proposing to his super hot girlfriend on a beach somewhere. She says yes just seconds before the beach is attacked by a group of machine gun toting terrorists; she is killed. Rapp wants revenge.

The next thing you know he is a fully trained MMA fighter with a bad temper that gets him in trouble. His plan is to go after the terrorists that killed hi bethrothed. What he doesn't know is that he has been under the everwatchful surveilance of CIA special forces bos Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan).


The CIA intervenes with a precision attack that would make Jason Bourne proud and grab Rapp up for recruitment.


The plan is to fold him into a super secret, super special force called Orion led by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). As is typical in these kinds of films, Hurely doesn't want Rapp because he doesn't follow orders and isn't disciplined. There are the obligatory training sessions where Rapp beats up a couple of agents but can't handle the 66-year old Harley who demonstrates that experience is more important than youthful strength.

Kennedy insists on his inclusion into Orion and their first mission is virtually a bust until Rapp disobeys orders and completes the mission with only a few extra casualties. Kennedy is impressed, Harley is not. Things heat up when they team up with a local female agent Annika (Shiva Negar) who seems mostly capable but not quite right. It is further complicated when they find out their target is a former Orion Agent gone bad who goes by the name of Ghost (Taylor Kitsch).


The action is non-stop and entertaining even though O'Brien is far from convincing as a super tough guy. He's like the K-Mart Blue Light special edition of a Mark Wahlberg, Daniel Craig or Matt Damon. He just doesn't fit the mold;


Keaton has the old agent look and talk down pat and presented a much better case for his role until he literally became the indestructible super agent near the end. It was far, far, far from believable but it amusing.


Despite the poor choice in lead actor, Cuesta keeps the pace lively with no dull moments - even while Rapp and Annika start to develop feelings for each other.


"American Assassin" is predictable, unoriginal and full of crock...but it is a lot of fun to watch for anyone who likes a lot of gratuitous violence. Lightweight Dylan O'Brien is miscast in the lead but Michael Keaton makes up for it.   -- GEOFF BURTON