Thursday, September 9, 2010

THE AMERICAN (2010)

Written by Rowan Joffe


Directed by Anton Corbijn


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  September 5, 2010  9:50 PM


George Clooney plays an assassin for hire who for years has lived a solitary life and, by necessity, shut down his emotions but has finally grown tired of his profession and wants out.

We first meet Jack, the American (Clooney) as he is walking with his girlfriend in a remote cabin in Sweden when they notice footprints in the snow. Jack grabs his girl and hides behind a boulder before they are shot at. It's not long, however, before there are three dead bodies and Jack is on the run.

Jack ends up in Rome and calls his associate, Pavel (Johan Leysen).  Pavel insists that Jack cannot stay and makes arrangements for him to go to a small village to hide out until he calls for him.

It's clear that Jack has been very successful at his job by relying on his instincts so, when he gets to the Italian village, he decides that it's not right. Jack moves on to another small town and disposes of the cell phone that Pavel has sent him.

Initially, Jack keeps to himself in his room while he is hiding in this town but soon he meets the local priest, Father Benedetto (Paulo Bonacelli). Jack introduces himself as "Edward" and says that he is a photographer. The priest tries to befriend Jack and senses that he is hiding something but, of course, Jack certainly will not let him in.

Jack soon contacts Pavel and he has an assignment for him. Pavel has the client, Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) meet Jack in the town. Mathilde wants Jack to build a sub machine gun that has the accuracy of a rifle. She hand Jack a down payment and will return when the gun is ready. Jack informs Pavel that this will be his last assignment for him.

Jack begins working on the weapon but he does have other needs, so he hires a local prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido) to help him out. They soon become close and their relationship evolves into an actual romance.

Jack soon becomes aware that there is another assassin in this town trailing him but how did he know he was here? Jack has to try and unravel this while avoiding this eliminator but now he doesn't know who to trust and that includes Pavel, Mathilde and Clara.

While I think "The American" is well made film but it moves at a glacier's speed and just very static overall. Based on the novel, "A Very Private Gentleman" by Martin Booth, the dialogue is very sparse, perhaps a little too much because you don't have enough information to really care or feel for any of these characters, plus it's already a problem feeling much sympathy when the main character is a paid killer. I wouldn't have minded any of these issues so much if there had been a great pay-off at the end but all we got was an ending that I saw coming long before even the other assassin did.

This film was directed by veteran music video director, Anton Corbijn, who also made the 2007 film, "Control" about Joy Divison singer, Ian Curtis so I found it very surprising how lethargic this movie was. Even the few action sequences were uninspiring and something you could see any night on any of those "CSI" television programs.

Mr. Clooney gives an adequate performance as the hit man but it does seem like he is a little out of comfort zone. There are probably other actors, Clive Owen, for one, that would have been a much better fit for this role.

I have to say that I greatly appreciate Mr. Clooney's willingness to produce unconventional and challenging films, like "The American", that probably would never make it to the big screen without his name behind it. I know he grew up in the 1970's, like myself, when Hollywood made films with actual characters that told unusual stories that made you think, didn't spell out everything for the audience and didn't tie everything up in a pretty bow at the end of the film. In between his more commercial films, Mr. Clooney is trying to bring those sort of films back, in his own small way, as he is responsible for such independent minded films such as "Solaris" (2002), "Good Night And Good Luck" (2005), "The Good German" (2006), and "Leatherheads" (2008).

With the exception of "Good Night", the rest of these films were valiant efforts but none of them worked completely as satisfying entertainment which, unfortunately, also includes this current film.

Although "The American" was not entirely successful, I do hope that Mr. Clooney will continue his attempt to bring this type of film, which are not made nearly enough by Hollywood anymore, to the cinema.