CBS Films 1 hour 51 minutes R Reviewed Septembder 15, 2017
A new franchise is “Bourne” or is it just a wannabe? Director Michael Cuesta (Dexter, Elementary, Homeland TV series), was looking to make this geopolitical counterterrorism thriller like the Bourne or Bond films. It’s based on the series of 15 novels, all New York Times Best Sellers, by Vince Flynn.
But this is the origin story and Cuesta says one of the reasons he cast Dylan O’Brien is because he is the same age as main character Mitch Rapp, and he’s already proven himself in action films including the Maze Runner films and Teen Wolf TV series. This is O’Brien’s first return in an action film after being hospitalized with a serious head injury when a stunt went wrong shooting “Maze Runner : The Death Cure” coming out next year.
Ed Zwick (Jack Reacher) was originally slated to direct but became one of the 4 writers called on the flesh out this screenplay. Sometimes too many cooks spoil the brew. Some of the dialogue was very cliché, such as “He dresses like a deer and kills like a lion.” Or “His numbers are off the chart.”
O’Brien, Taylor Kitsch as Ghost, and Shiva Negar as Annika work very hard in this film pummeling each other and everybody in their perimeter employing guns and knives. There is a very high body count.
Rapp is an Ivy League educated kid who was on vacation with his fiancé in Spain when she is gunned down in a bloody terrorist attack on the beach. 18 months later, he’s hell bent on payback learning how to become a killing machine able to speak Arabic to boot. He gets onto the CIA’s radar and CIA chief Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Nathan) sends him for further training by the baddest of the bad asses, Stan Hurley. It’s Michael Keaton in complete caricature mode as the sadistic, tougher than nails, you’ll-wish-you-were-dead, trainer. Rapp has trouble staying on point and Stan gets tougher trying to keep him and the mission on track.
Rapp is supposed to stop shadowy Middle Eastern operators from getting weapons grade plutonium from a former Naval Seal turned rogue named Ghost. It’s always a battle against time with lots of bloody battles on land and sea. The writers made some vain attempts at plot twists along the way, but those seemed strictly to get more action in. It’s all pretty predictable.
The torture scenes are hard to watch as they should be. That is slow and painful. This film is also filled with lots of ear-shattering blasts and tons of broken glass. Director Cuesta wanted the fights to be less green screen and more actual contact. Funny how some of the scars of gun and knife wounds disappearedon the principles' torsos in subsequent scenes. There's also a long fight with bodies bouncing inside a speeding boat that could make you sea sick.
Like in the Bond and Bourne movies, the globe trotting brings you to Spain to Rome to Turkey and more, Even so, this is another one of those summer action flicks we think just didn’t light up the screen. There are 14 more of Flynn’s novels to draw from, but time and ticket sales will tell if it will be a wrap, or if Rapp will be back for more.