Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The American

The American
Starring:
George Clooney, Johan Leysen, Violante Placido, Paolo Bonacelli, Thekla Reuten


Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: September 1, 2010 Released by: Focus Features

Perennial female favorite George Clooney helps to bolster what is normally late summer swill with this deceptive blandly-titled suspense drama which will be dismissed by many as pretentious, glacial art-house fare.

"The American", adapted from Martin Booth's novel "A Very Private Gentleman", could be a more laconic cousin of something like "In Bruges", but languishes in comparison to something more taut, psychological and thrilling as in "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo."

That's not to say that Clooney doesn't offer an interesting portrait of a Jack, a loner of an assassin hiding in Italy looking to retire from a life fabricating high-powered guns.

His careful, private existence has apparently allowed for little in the way of friendships, but, at least from the opening, plenty of female bedfellows. Though it's hard to tell if they're privvy A botched job (that is learned) in snowy Sweden where Jack's holed up in a rural cabin leads to a train ride to Rome.

Scribes Rowan Joffe and Booth then, in their understated way, have the professional settle into a quiet life in the picaresque Italian alps of Abruzzo for one last assignment by way of his boss Pavel (Johan Leysen).

But, they delve out some of Jack's past through phone calls as director Anton Corbijn and his crew fashion some old-fashioned cinematic European-flavored Western minimalism bound by forgiveness and redemption.

Jack, embittered by his isolated condition, begins an intimate affair with comely hooker Clara (Violante Placido, in the most developed of the few side roles) and confides in a local, guilt-ridden priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli). Acting in their best interest, at least in one case, may be mutually beneficial. Yet, as he tries to enjoy life once again, his past is in hot pursuit. Some of the edgier interludes include a red-headed mysterious Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) a higher-up, hired contact retained to compensate his considerable knowledge of weaponry.

Corbijn establishes some sharp, scenic shots that accentuate the topography as much of the limited action in "The American" occurs on a hilly Medieval hamlet. This often contemplative, character-driven tale of a jaded killer maybe dwells too much in the shadows even before a "High Noon"-inspired showdown.

It's not that Clooney can't convey moral ambiguity and caution through low-key internalization into this kind of solitary man. One wished this uncompromising translation of its antecedent was more intrusive (not in music, chases or gunplay) with incidental sophistication that the middle-aged star had in "Michael Clayton" and the acclaimed, but fired-upon "Up In The Air."

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The American  B   C   B-            B      B- 

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