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Film / American Assassin

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If you're in his cross-hairs, run.

"My guess is, if you and I go hand to hand you could probably figure out inside twenty seconds whether or not if I have what it takes to make through your selection process. So, what do you think?"
Mitch Rapp

The story focuses on troubled young man Mitch Rapp and his desire to kill terrorists all around the world after one killed his girlfriend before his very eyes. Mentored by Stan Hurley, he and an elite team of assassins must travel the globe to save it from destruction.

This film is based on the book series and stars Dylan Obrien and Michael Keaton.

This series as a whole provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Rapp is repeatedly touted as a superior agent by his CIA handler.
  • Action Girl: Annika can certainly hold her own in a fight.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Victor in the novel is a sadistic trainer who is used by Hurley to push and taunt new recruits, while in the film he actually is a new recruit, passing the tests and participating in the initial mission. He's still a Jerkass.
  • After Action Patch Up: Annika and Rapp have a brief one about halfway into the film, with Annika doing the patching.
  • America Saves the Day: Considering the film title, it should't come as a surprise that someone working for America is the one who resolves the story's conflict.
  • American Title
  • Arc Words: "Never make it personal."
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Fission weapons, no matter how powerful they might be, don't create a giant vacuum zone that looks like a black hole before exploding. They just explode. The only weapon that's known for even approximating such an effect are aerosol bombs, and they don't work like this either. Chalk it up to the Rule of Cool.
  • As You Know: At least two Iranian government officials use their very first lines on screen to mention their job titles during a meeting with US personnel that should most definitely know who those guys are, all for the audience's sake.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Rapp apparently grew one in the 18 months after his fiancee's death. Emphasis on 'apparently' — he actually grew it to infiltrate the Islamic terrorist cell that was directly responsible for her death.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Ghost was tortured by enemy agents, has become considerably unhinged, and wants revenge for being left behind. Hurley is unsympathetic, pointing out Ghost was captured because he disobeyed orders, and he had been told in training "no one's gonna come save you if you're caught".
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Hurley tells his trainees that if they get captured, they will be tortured by the enemy, and no one will come to save them, so they should kill themselves to avoid it. Ghost apparently didn't believe him and thought Hurley would come for him. Hurley blows him off for thinking that.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Iran is mostly portrayed as black, and the CIA as a pretty dark grey. Once the true villains are revealed, it turns into Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Many, many examples. Contrary to what's usually taught during combat training, the characters seem to actively aim for the head by default instead of going for center mass.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Rapp utilizing a Barehanded Blade Block against Victor is seen again during his fight with Ghost. As well as Hurley's proper instruction on how to stab someone.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Ghost subjects Hurley to this, using a variety of methods. Judging by the former's looks and accusations, he himself was subjected to this before.
  • Cold Sniper: Ghost, among being a cold-blooded everything else as well.
  • Composite Character: Victor is a combination of both Victor and Roberts from the novel.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Ghost, the Big Bad, was a former agent under Hurley's purview before he was apparently left behind enemy lines. The torture he endured there made him slightly... unhinged. However, Hurley isn't really all that sympathetic to Ghost's circumstances, as Ghost got caught because he was a loose cannon. Not to mention, all recruits were told during their training that if any of them got caught, no one would come rescue them.
  • Defiant Captive: Hurley doesn't give Ghost the time of day while under the latter's... ministrations. Quite the opposite, in fact.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: There's not much of a chance to get to know Rapp before his fiancee gets gunned down before his eyes, but that experience really did a number on him. By the events of the film, his sole motivation is bloody vengeance on every single terrorist in the world.
  • Disposable Woman: With two exceptions, women are not safe in this film. Even nearly all the background extras get killed.
  • Enemy Mine: How Rapp's and Annika's working relationship could be summed up after the latter's true allegiance is revealed.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Rapp makes a car explode just by driving it into a narrow tunnel until it gets stuck. No, really, that's all it takes.
  • Fanservice: Rapp's fiancee at the beginning in her bikini, and the gratuitous toplessness of the Turkish arms dealer's mistress, although it's brief.
  • Fingore: Hurley's fingernails are ripped out during the above-mentioned torture scene.
  • Heroic Suicide: Annika shoots themself in the head to deprive Ghost of his hostage, allowing Rapp to take him out. The circumstances quickly turn it into a Senseless Sacrifice as far as the mission is concerned, but since the person is also heavily implied to be a Death Seeker by that point, at least they got what they wanted.
  • Incredibly Obvious Tail: Victor is unbelievably inept at observation. The only thing he could've done to give himself away even more is carry a big-ass neon sign with "Hey, look! I'm an undercover agent!" over his head.
  • I Never Told You My Name: A variant, as Annika refers to Ghost by name despite having never been told it before. This leads Rapp to correctly guess that they're not who they say they are.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Rapp stares directly into the camera while the final scene is setting up a Sequel Hook.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Rapp's defining character trait, much to Hurley's mounting consternation, is that he doesn't obey orders or follow plans.
  • The Mole: Annika is actually working for the Iranian intelligence services.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: There is a meta version present here. The film bypasses the hand-to-hand fight between Rapp and Hurley when the two first meet in the book (also currently serving as the page quote), with Hurley simply letting Rapp stay when the latter suggests the idea, which could be seen as a let-down consider how heavily it was featured in the trailer.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Rapp has a tendency to invoke this on anyone, even during training exercises. It gets him kicked out of martial arts studios and makes him even more unpopular with his co-workers during his CIA training.
  • Nuke 'em: The plot mostly revolves around the theft of weapons-grade plutonium and the nuclear weapon someone is sure to build with it. It gets a bit more complicated from there. The bomb actually detonates in the finale and inflicts some damage, although not nearly as much as it could have without the main characters' intervention.
  • Old Soldier: Hurley, who's still an excellent fighter despite his age.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Granted, the greater plot had already been running in the background by that point, but Rapp's fiancee dying in an Islamic terrorist attack on a Spanish beach resort is what eventually ropes him into it.
  • Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: It's all about fighting terrorism.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "This isn't personal."
  • Psychotic Smirk: Rapp has one of these when standing behind the Iranian candidate in the elevator in the ending.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Rapp shoots the targets at a shooting range while other shooters are firing at them. This earns the disgust of others around him, and they quickly leave before anything bad happens.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Might as well be the film's Tag Line. Every main character is out for someone's blood for personal reasons and will happily jeopardize the mission and their own life in their thirst for revenge. Predictably, many of the movie's most idiotic moments can be traced directly to this issue. Hurley mentions several times throughout the film to "never make it personal".
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The story focuses heavily on Iran's nuclear ambitions, its long-standing beef with Israel, and the anti-nuclear treaty Iran signed with the West, something neither side is particularly happy with. The film was released late in 2017 when all these topics were making headlines in Real Life on a regular basis.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: After the mission to receive the trigger device fails, Rapp disobeys orders and goes after the buyer and killing him before taking his laptop. Later, after Hurley gets captured by Ghost, Rapp steals a smartphone and a car, breaks out Annika from custody, and storm Ghost's hideout to stop the terrorist and rescue Hurley.
  • Ship Tease: There's some light teasing going on between Annika and Rapp, but nothing ever comes of it.
  • Slasher Smile: Ghost sports one to Rapp during their final battle, when he taunts Rapp about his girlfriend's death.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Nobody wants to work with Rapp because he's an asshole and a loose cannon, and he doesn't want to work with others, either. Too bad neither of them really has a say in the matter.
  • Terms of Endangerment Recognizing Mitch as a fellow disciple of Stan Hurley, Ghost starts calling him "Little Brother" in their final confrontation.
  • Time Skip: Eighteen months pass between the prologue and the actual events of the film.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The fact that the nuke goes off and hits a US Navy fleet was heavily featured in the trailers to the point that many viewers cite it as their sole reason for watching the film.
  • The Unfettered: Ghost doesn't give a shit about who's in his way when he opens fire, merrily gunning down civilians, unlucky policemen, and anyone else the moment the lead starts flying.
  • Virtual Training Simulation: Mitch and the other trainees are going through a VR simulation where they must identify and kill hostiles while wearing laser tag gear. The laser tag gear gives the trainees a varying degree of electric shock commensurate with how badly they have been hit, i.e. a kill shot hurts severely versus a grazing. The VR environment is a mix of trainees, trainers, and VR inserted terrorist targets.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Rapp's fiancee exists solely to be killed off about three minutes into the prologue.
  • Western Terrorists: Ghost, who has a serious axe to grind with the US. Learning how it came to pass actually turns him into one of the more sympathetic characters in the film.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: A bladed variant, with Ghost hitting Rapp in the face multiple times with the handle of his knife during their final fight, even while the latter is defenseless, instead of... y'know, stabbing him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Ghost has no compunctions about punching Annika in the face with his fist. Made worse by how he gave Rapp a mere two pimp slaps earlier.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • And my brother. And my uncle. That's Annika's personal beef with some of the bad guys. It seriously compromises her professionalism, makes her do something incredibly stupid at a crucial moment, and gets her killed as a direct consequence.
    • It's never mentioned exactly how Rapp's parents died, but it's implied that they were killed in a terrorist attack just like how his fiancé was.