Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Action
Opens: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Run Time: 1 hour 45 Minutes
Click here to view "The American" trailer and other movie info.
The opening sequence of "The American" would lead you to believe that this movie was an espionage thriller, full of action, suspense, and some twists. It starts with a bang, a few bangs to be exact. Perhaps it was this opening and what followed, that led to my utter disappointment in "The American", misguiding my expectations. In any scenario, all of Clooney's charms and strengths disappear almost immediately in this slow, brooding character study that never quite reels us in.
Plot. Jack (Clooney) is at the center of the film, who we learn is a skilled assassin-for-hire on the run from some other assassins. He ends up hiding out in the Italian countryside, where he befriends a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and a beautiful Italian prostitute (Placido). Both characters serve a purpose, almost quite literally representing Jack's conscience (think angel on one shoulder, devil on the other), and they give us insight into his mind. In Italy, Jack is given another job, to construct a weapon for a mysterious contact.
A nearly "action-less" action movie. The movie does little to establish any sense of history, or character background. As a character in the movie says (paraphrasing) "You silly Americans, always more concerned with the present." This lack of explanation is meant (I think) to make the characters more mysterious and interesting, but this lack of depth does the opposite. As the movie progresses, we keep waiting for something to happen...Nothing nearly does. Be warned, as this movie is listed in most places as an "action/adventure", and there is very little of both.
George Clooney Sex Scene. Females may be drawn to the movie solely for Clooney, and for his much talked about sex scene with co-star Violante Placido. That scene, like the rest of the movie, lacks any true passion. We understand why Clara the prostitute is attracted to Clooney: he not only represents a chance at a new life, he is...George Clooney. Clooney for that matter, is serviceable in the role, but it is a one-note performance. Jack is never happy, never in a good mood, but simply broods around because he is simply in a movie that tries desperately to be brooding and dark.
When in Rome...I personally loved the cinematography of the movie, set in the Abruzzo region of Italy (hometown of my family and ancestors.) To this effect, the movie does have a peaceful and unique tone, since not many movies are set in this region, nor do most take the time to really show the small town living of these types of areas. For a director (Corbijn) with a background in music videos and rock-band videos, it's as if he deliberately wanted a change-of-pace. Unfortunately, that pace is quite slow, and never allows the movie a chance to become relevant.
In Conclusion. "The American" is on one level a fish-out-of-water story, but is mainly a movie dealing with temptation. The paradigm is that Jack knows from his past that he cannot make human connections, though all he wants is to connect. The problem is, that we are never invested in Jack as a character, because we know so little about him. We want to like George Clooney, yes, but this may be his most lifeless role yet.
"The American" is based on a novel by British author Martin Booth called "A Very Private Gentleman." The book's title is much more appropriate. "A Very Private American" could have even been used. But the title "The American" leads us to believe that this is an outsiders story, set in a foreign land, and gives a feeling of adventure. The trailer to this movie provides far more adventure than you'll find in the film's entirety.
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