All work and no play make George a very dull boy; dull being the main problem with The American. Any film that has an unknown cast but headlining George Clooney is always going to draw in a few people, even if they know nothing about the film before-hand. That being said though, the times have changed in cinematic history when a famous name doesn’t always ensure a hit anymore. No matter his charms, Clooney can’t save this movie from being, quite frankly, a little bit slow and boring. However it has its lighter moments, which are a blessing when you’ve had several minutes of silence with no music.
The opening scene is of a quiet setting in snowy Sweden where we meet Jack (Clooney), a lonely hit-man considering giving up the job for good. With a female companion, it seems all is happy and relaxed; that is until an assassination attempt interrupts the romance and the next thing we know Jack is headed to Italy solo. In the picturesque little town of Abruzzo, he then lies in wait for details of his next job, when he is commissioned to build a weapon for another killer, (in the form of the slinky and mysterious Thekla Reuten).
It’s not long however before his enemies catch up with him causing unwanted attention from a few local people, including failing to keep his professional life out of his personal by falling for a hooker (Violante Placido) and forming an unusual friendship with a priest (Paolo Bonacelli). Jack is finding it increasingly hard to walk away from his past.
It’s actually this friendship with the Priest that forms most of the comical and lighter aspects of the film. Bonacelli is perfectly cast at conveying the man who it seems isn’t immediately aware of Jack’s antics, but he isn’t oblivious either, which set up a few predictable ‘Forgive me father’ jokes.
Clooney holds the film together, without him it would be just another churned out run of the mill thriller. His broody, solemn Jack is a pretty sad character, but not enough to make us really care. We never really find out enough about Jack’s character, which makes him expendable.
Clooney’s not exactly helped by the script, which is pretty nonexistent at times, as we wait what seems like for hours for some small smidgeon of dialogue. How does he differ from any other hitman? Corbijn is keen to show off his skills as a craftsman dedicated to making a quality weapon as well as shooting it, something which we perhaps won’t see in most action movies of this sort.
The pacing is a problem, most of the action is brought out in short bursts of energy which then very quickly fizzle out, although the sets and backdrops are gorgeous and interesting with its dark twisty passageways for some good chase scenes.
Whether Clooney’s pulling force at the box office is still strong today in the cinema will be proved when The American hits cinemas. Only time will tell.
The American comes out in the UK November 26th and is out on DVD in the US December 28th