Guns and Poses
The American wins my “Feel-Bad Movie of the Year” Award, hands down. I know it’s only September, but there’s zero chance of another 2010 film offering any competition to this gloomy portrait of a man whose chosen work involves guns and assassination. Playing the title character, George Clooney seems out of place and uncomfortable in a role requiring no charm or other sympathetic characteristics. But, like David Caruso in the Miami CSI television series, Clooney gets plenty of close-ups -- Clooney thinking, Clooney driving, Clooney sitting in a café, Clooney assembling a deadly weapon, etc. Because the former “Sexiest Man Alive” is always good to look at and works hard to deliver a quality performance here, many of his fans may enjoy this artsy thriller.
Those expecting The American to be an action thriller are in for a disappointment, because after a promising and suspenseful opening sequence in the snow, there’s not much happening on screen until the last few confusing minutes of the film. Clooney portrays Jack (maybe not his real name), an American who fills orders for guns used in assassinations -- and pulls the trigger himself at times. He travels to Italy and holes up in a small village to wait for his next assignment, which is finally revealed by a conspiratorial woman (Thekla Reuten) in an exchange right out of a typical spy movie.
Love enters the picture when Jack falls for a gorgeous prostitute with a heart of gold (Violante Placido), which probably helps him decide to turn down any additional “jobs” from his suspicious phone contact (Johan Leysen). I say “probably,” but who knows? It’s not easy to comprehend what’s going on with Jack. He says very little, even to a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) who befriends him and tries to discover what makes him tick. However, we learn during the film that Jack loves butterflies, trusts no one, suffers a twinge of guilt, and is always looking over his shoulder.
On a positive note, viewers interested in guns have a treat in store for them in scenes showing Jack putting together a weapon to meet the very particular specifications of a client’s order. Clooney makes sure we know what a master Jack is in this area. But anyone hoping to revel in glorious Italian scenery may feel let down. The setting appears bleak and lifeless, thereby providing another reason for the award I bestowed upon The American.
(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for violence, sexual content, and nudity.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.