Christmas is coming early for Mitch Rapp fans, because American Assassin, the film adaption of Vince Flynn’s bestselling novel, comes out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and 4K today.
While I don’t typically write movie or DVD reviews, I have entirely too much history with Mitch Rapp (more on that below) to not chime in on today’s highly-anticipated release. I was fortunate to see the movie ahead of its theatrical release, but this isn’t a review of the movie itself. I can sum up my review of the film in just twenty words: The characters are true to who Vince Flynn created. . . Dylan O’Brien is Mitch Rapp. One of the year’s best films!
Instead, this review will cover the bonus/special features content.
For this review, I purchased the standard DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital combo pack available from Wal-Mart and Amazon. It’s entirely possible that different retailers may have exclusive bonus content, so check around before running out to grab your copy. I’ll update this review as soon as I’ve had a chance to see if the Best Buy, Target, etc. versions have anything different to offer.
The special features content kicks off with “Target Acquired: Creating American Assassin,” a fun segment that walks fans through the process of going from book to movie, bringing Vince Flynn’s work to life on the big screen.
“We started nine years ago,” says Lorenzo Di Bonaventura (Transformers, Deep Water Horizon, Shooter), the film’s producer. “I had read two or three of Vince’s books. I thought, ‘These are great, somebody must already have these.’ I looked into the rights, they were available, and we were able to get it. . . and it’s been a very long journey to get here.”
The narrative bounced between Lorenzo and fellow producer, Nick Wechsler (Magic Mike XXL, We Own the Night), who each explain that the journey of bringing Rapp to the big screen actually began with adapting Vince Flynn’s Consent to Kill.
“It was a spy thriller set in the world today. It wasn’t fake adversaries or supervillains, the villains are the ones who exist in the world as we know it,” explains Wechsler, talking about what drew him to the world and characters Flynn created.
As for switching from Consent to Kill to American Assassin–a prequel that Flynn wrote to his #1 bestselling series, which happened to come out right around the time that production on the Consent to Kill movie was falling apart–everyone agreed that it made more sense to instead tell Rapp’s origin story.
“I think a lot of [Vince’s] fans wanted to know Mitch Rapp right out of college, and how he got started in that line of work,” says Lysa Flynn, Vince’s widow.
“It was a great entry point for people who had never read Vince before to start from the beginning of Mitch Rapp’s chronological life,” says David Brown, Flynn’s former publicist and friend. (Brown, the Deputy Director of publicity for Atria Books, still works on the series today, which has now been continued by author Kyle Mills.)
“What I’ve always loved about this origin story,” says Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, The Maze Runner), who plays Mitch Rapp in American Assassin, “is that you get to see where this guy comes from.”
Stephen Schiff (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Americans), the screenwriter who penned the script for American Assassin, noted that he recently had dinner with a fan of the books who explained that when it came to Rapp, they loved him because the character is “so badass.” Offering his own take, Schiff says, “He is so badass, but the way we depict him, is, ya know, how do you get to be so badass?”
“Mitch is one tough sonofabitch,” says Di Bonaventura, “in every book he just rises to a different level of engagement with the enemy.”
It was important to me that the characters stay true to the way Vince wrote in his book,” says Lisa Flynn. “You can break and change the story all different kinds of ways, but the characters, to me, that was what I was looking for and what I wanted to feel.”
The touching segment offers a ton of insight into the film process, and fans also get to hear from Michael Keaton (who plays Stan Hurley, Rapp’s mentor, in the film), Taylor Kitsch (who plays the film’s antagonist, Ghost), and Michael Cuesta, who directed American Assassin.
Up next is a bonus segment called “Finding Mitch Rapp: Dylan O’Brien” that talks about the casting process and how O’Brien was ultimately chosen for the coveted role.
“I think one of the most complicated things about the casting,” says Di Bonaventura, “is that somebody who read the books before American Assassin, in your mind, Mitch is this forty, forty-four-year-old, tough, scar-torn veteran.”
Indeed, when O’Brien’s casting was first announced in 2016, a number of diehard book fans voiced their opinions that the twenty-five-year-old actor was far too young to play the role of Mitch Rapp.
(Side note: as many of you know, before running The Real Book Spy, I started a Mitch Rapp fan site and was nicknamed The Rappologist. I still tweet from @MitchRappFans on Twitter, and never understood fans who were negative about O’Brien’s casting. At twenty-five, Dylan is actually two years older than Rapp is in Flynn’s book. For what it’s worth, I think O’Brien absolutely nailed this tough, gritty role and perfectly personifies the character of Mitch Rapp.)
“An origin story is a great way to start telling a story. . . we wanted to watch this character grow,” says screenwriter Stephen Schiff.
In an insightful note, Di Bonaventura explains that moviegoers don’t typically picture a twenty-something-year-old as the hero who gets to decide the fate of good and evil. That, he admits, was one of the things they wrestled with when casting for Rapp.
As a fan of the book series, this segment is probably my favorite of all the special features because you get to hear everyone involved with making the film, both those in front of and behind the camera, talk about Mitch Rapp. It’s clear that everyone did their homework when it comes to Flynn’s work and his vision for his hero, and it’s pretty neat to hear them dissect what makes Mitch Rapp so special.
In the end, Lysa Flynn sums it up perfectly when she recounts meeting Dylan O’Brien in person for the first time, noting that it “was so obvious that he was the perfect guy for the role.” Speaking more about O’Brien, Flynn says “He’s very passionate. He’s disciplined. I think he really does encompass everything that Mitch Rapp is.”
Also packed into the special features are “Transfer of Power: Hurley and Ghost,” which thoroughly breaks down the relationship between the characters, and “Weaponized: Training and Stunts,” a very cool feature that chronicles everything the actors, mainly Dylan O’Brien, did to become weapons proficient for their role in the movie.
A lot of time is dedicated to explaining why the producers felt Michael Keaton was so perfect for the crucial role of Stan Hurley. Likewise, Keaton himself admits that he “hadn’t played anyone like [Hurley],” and the star explains why he was interested in the role. Other cast members weigh in on Keaton’s performance, which is dead on. Book fans will appreciate hearing Keaton, who says he did read Flynn’s novel, break down his character, as the veteran actor clearly understands what makes Hurley special.
One of the most shocking revelations to come out of the bonus content is the confirmation of an early rumor that Taylor Kitsch was once considered for the lead role of Rapp. Kitsch says he was first approached three years ago about the role, before then being re-approached by Di Bonaventura to “play the other guy.”
“Ghost wasn’t Ghost in the first script, at all,” says Kitsch, who then talks about the development his character (who is not in the books) went through prior to actually shooting the movie.
The bonus material is capped off with “In the Field: On Location,” which takes fans along for the location-choosing process, and a Q&A that the cast did at the Alamo Drafthouse.
All in all, the bonus features are well done and exciting, and obviously geared towards appeasing both book and movie fans. There are a number of subtle nods to Flynn’s novels throughout, including the Easter egg mention of the very first Mitch Rapp book he ever wrote, Transfer of Power (1999).
If you’re a diehard fan of Flynn’s books, know that the readers are well represented because the producers themselves are fans. And while some may not like the changes from the book to the movie, the crew–everyone from the producers to the director and the screenwriter–really went out of their way to explain the changes that were made, and why they felt they were necessary.
Bottom line: Are the special features content enough to warrant running out and getting this DVD today? In my opinion, absolutely. Especially if you’re a longtime Vince Flynn fan.
American Assassin is one of the hottest new releases this holiday season–click here to order your copy today!