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There are a couple of minor surprises in the new action picture “American Assassin.” For example, David Suchet, one of those terrifically accomplished British actors who ought to be doing Shakespeare or Pinter, has a minor part in it. He’s something like the director of the CIA.

Spies figure here, because the story is about a young American man who travels the globe to do harm to terrorists. Here’s the back story. He has just proposed to, and been accepted by, his pretty bikini clad girlfriend. Suddenly a gang of machine gun firing guys who would assert they were Muslim fundamentalists show up on that Spanish beach to kill a bunch of scantily clad Westerners.

His girlfriend is killed. But our hero, Mitch (Dylan O’Brien) recovers. He somehow finds out that one specific North African ordered that raid on unarmed civilians. So.

He studies the Koran. He takes all sorts of physical and weapons training. And he communicates with the North African’s website guys as if he were a philosophical fellow traveler. Finally he gets an invite to come to Tripoli and meet the gang.

But before he can kill the boss terrorist, the CIA breaks in. They’ve been bird dogging him. They shoot the North African and finish off all the boys. Then they take Mitch to their leader.

She passes him along to Stan, an experienced killer who trains murderers for special CIA overseas jobs. Stan is played by Michael Keaton, who has been having something of a career renaissance recently. He’s good here as the gritty instructor and manager of secret agents.

Mitch is one of the best of Stan’s boys. So he gets taken along to Turkey and then to Rome as Stan’s unit tries to trace a bunch of stolen plutonium and a nuke trigger that a guy called The Ghost is supposedly ready to put together for an Iranian general.

The rest of the story pretty much writes itself. There’s going to be a mole. There are going to be a couple of plot reversals, where accepted ends are replaced. Mitch is going to have to use his initiative more than once, defying orders. And Stan is going to have to show us he still has it in him to operate.

One other familiar plot device will be used. The Ghost will turn out to be a former student of Stan’s, talented as Mitch but with a broken moral governor.

And there will be additional action sequences,
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including a last one that is as spectacular as relatively inexperienced director Michael Questa had money to do.

The big surprise about this movie is that it gives the public what they want. For 16 years or so, politicians have told us we were at war with terrorism. It would be astonishing if Americans didn’t want to see movies about heroes among us hitting back at the types who caused the 9/11 attacks, got us to fight in Afghanistan and Syria, and inspired terrorism in Western European capitals, including London last week.

But Hollywood hasn’t given us fictional accounts of gutsy Yankees taking the fight to our enemies. To be fair, neither have publishers. This may partly explain the national lack of enthusiasm for novels, for narrative television, and for the movies our entertainment media are not responsive to their potential domestic audiences.

This may be one of the unforeseen consequences of our shift from reliance on wages to reliance on wealth. This maybe why the TV network bosses are so willing to see their late evening talk show ratings collapse. They want to do “smart” political bits no matter what audiences want. And they all want to do the same political point of view.

Then this little active but underfunded fight, drive, and shoot movie comes along. It offers ticket buyers a chance to see Middle Eastern ish terrorists getting tagged. And it sells a lot of tickets its first weekend.

Think the brass at Warners and 20th Century Fox will be paying attention? They might not. After all, they’ve already got all the money they can spend. And if they catered to ticket buyers, their friends might snub ’em.

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