The late author Vince Flynn published 13 novels about terrorist-battling CIA agent Mitch Rapp between 1999 and 2012. In 2010, Flynn went back in time to explore Rapp's origins with the prequel novel American Assassin. CBS Films at one time planned to make a movie out of American Assassin with Chris Hemsworth in the lead role, and even offered the Thor star $10 million for the privilege. Ultimately Hemsworth passed on the money and the opportunity, and the film went forward with the much-younger Maze Runner star Dylan O'Brien in the lead.
CBS Films is reportedly hoping that O'Brien's portrayal of Rapp in American Assassin - think a less mysterious, more patriotic Jason Bourne - will catch on with audiences and allow them to launch a franchise. The first installment sees O'Brien's Rapp, a college-age Arab linguistics expert, suffering the traumatic loss of his girlfriend in a terrorist attack and swearing to get back at the people responsible. To help him gain revenge, Rapp seeks training from a reluctant mentor played by Michael Keaton (in a role Bruce Willis was at one point in talks to take).
A first trailer for American Assassin was shown to CinemaCon audiences and THR was on hand to offer a synopsis. Here's what THR conveyed:
- The trailer tells us that Rapp's goal in life is to find the terrorists who killed his girlfriend and take them out.
- Rapp looks for Michael Keaton's Stan Hurley character in the woods.
- When Rapp finds Hurley, he challenges the older man to hand-to-hand combat, saying Hurley should be able to tell in less than 20 seconds if Rapp has the stuff to be a CIA agent.
- Hurley then hands Rapp a knife and tells the young man to kill him.
- Old Hurley easily disarms Rapp and holds the knife to his throat.
A few images from the film have already been made available, showing Dylan O'Brien looking like a young Christian Bale and Michael Keaton looking like he's ready to take a trip down the river with Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight in Deliverance. Sanaa Lathan, Taylor Kitsch, Scott Adkins and David Suchet are also in the cast. Michael Cuesta directed from a script credited to Stephen Schiff (after it was taken on by writers Michael Finch, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick).
The Vince Flynn Mitch Rapp novels certainly have plenty of action and intrigue, and lots of pro-American themes, but it remains to be seen if American Assassin can help turn Flynn's series into the next Bourne franchise. The film is set for release on September 15th, 2017.