American Assassin ★★½

"Never, ever, let it get personal." ~ Stan Hurley

Based upon Vince Flynn's 2010 novel, this action-thriller from director Michael Cuesta deals with covert operations conducted by the CIA to thwart the detonation of a rogue nuclear weapon. However, that's not where it begins. First we see a couple of young Americans, Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) and his girlfriend Katrina Harper (Charlotte Vega) frolicking on the beach in Ibiza, Spain, where he proposes to her and she accepts. Minutes later, a group of terrorists spray the holiday destination with bullets, killing her and wounding him badly.

Flash forward 18 months to Providence, Rhode Island. Rapp has recovered physically and is obsessed by the need for vengeance. He learns Arabic. He studies the Koran. He trains in martial arts and marksmanship. He makes contact with a terrorist group in Tripoli, Libya, aiming to infiltrate and kill those responsible for the death of his fiancée. He has no idea he is under CIA surveillance, and just as he is about to get inside a jihadi cell, shots ring out and a highly trained black ops team takes out all the baddies.

Rapp is held by the CIA in a safe house for a full month of debriefing. That's when Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) offers him a deal -- join a secret team called Orion, led by former Navy SEAL Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Not having a lot of options, Rapp agrees, and so begins his training as an American assassin. Hurley isn't totally on board with Rapp. He's too emotional. But in other areas, he excels and makes no friends in the process.

Intel reveals that 15kg of weapons-grade plutonium has been stolen from Russia. Videos show a former Orion operative known as "Ghost" (Taylor Kitsch), previously presumed dead, has possession of it. Hurley and his team fly to Istanbul on a mission to recover the plutonium before it can be sold to agents holding a triggering device. Rapp is paired with local contact Annika Ogden (Shiva Negar) and, taking a reckless risk, he steals a cellphone that provides them with the location of the weapons deal.

The bust goes badly. One of Onion's lead men is killed. Rapp follows the primary target named Sharif (Khalid Laith) to an apartment, where he kills him and grabs a laptop containing information that leads the team to Rome and a nuclear physicist capable of constructing a functional nuclear weapon. But look for some double-crossing and bad decisions to make this a little less linear than "follow the leads and catch the bad guy." It's kinda sorta okay.

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