After an attempt on his life fails, a professional assassin (Clooney) hides out in Italy waiting to complete one last assignment.
One way to describe this movie is ‘stripped back’ another way is ‘pared to the bone’. THE AMERICAN is a would-be thriller wrapped in a languishing 105 minute Italian travelogue. We are told almost nothing about Clooney’s character Jack. We don’t know why he is on the run, who he works for and who his potential killers are. Jack is a quiet loner, marked for death, travelling through a bleak and friendless world. THE AMERICAN makes the first Bourne movie look like a chatty road movie by comparison.
THE AMERICAN is all surface, and all appearance. The film looks fantastic; winding mountain roads, majestic hills, dizzying chasms, golden landscapes, everywhere you look is a treat for the eye. But nothing that happens in the plot will give you as much pleasure as looking at the gorgeous country side, except possibly looking at the gorgeous actors.
Dutch Actor, Thekla Reten (In Bruges) plays Mathilde, a client who wants Jack to make a high powered sniper rifle. Why is never made clear. Their interaction and the effect it has on Jack’s time makes up a large part of the film. We are shown many scenes of his working on this precision firearm. People who like process montages and technical builds will enjoy this portion of the movie.
Violante Placido plays Clara a hooker with a heart of gold. This is exactly as clichéd as it sounds. But Jack is an old school professional killer which is hardly a fresh idea for the movies. These clichés sneak up on you rather than hit you right in the face. Because the writing is so spare the movie travels for about half its length on sheer mystery. But the few answers we do get, hint at a plot that we’ve seen before and character types we know well. The screenplay is written by Rowan Joffe who is best known for 28 WEEKS LATER and is adapted from the Martin Booth novel A Very Private Gentleman.
Clooney has chosen a different role in playing THE AMERICAN. It’s as much a shift away from the charming and in control Clooney that audience knows and loves, as the part he played in UP IN THE AIR. As an actor and director, Clooney obviously understands the business and realises that he cannot simply repeat himself. But the role of assassin Jack calls for very few of his best skills. Clooney knows how to handle dialogue, but Jack isn’t much of a talker. Jack keeps to himself and gives very little away. Clooney can do this, but the enigmatic guy we read from the outside is simply not his A Game.
This is the second dramatic feature from photographer and music-video director Anton Corbijn. His first film CONTROL was about the life of musician and Joy Division front man Ian Curtis. He has created a film that will give you the following: beautiful visuals, stunning European actresses, a beautiful sniper rifle and a few brief, but well-choreographed action scenes.
THE AMERICAN is screening in Australia now. I rated it 2.5/5.