The American
No matter if it’s duck or rabbit season, that gun still seems like overkill.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/01/2010
Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Johan Leysen, Paolo Bonacelli, Thekla Reuten

“The American” is an interesting sell to audiences. On the one hand, you have George Clooney and trailers hinting at a nice blend of action with Dr. Ross’ smoldering. In actuality though, it’s a slow, mood driven film that looks and feels like a European character piece about a covert agent facing the end of his career. I’m all for this kind of film, it just doesn’t quite sit right with Clooney in the lead.

Now, I’ve never read the novel this is based on but in doing some research, the protagonist was originally English, not American. I can understand that there’s financial reasons for grabbing such a big star but there’s very little artistic merit to the notion. Sure, it allows for some subtle America bashing and Clooney gets to film in Italy, where he famously lives whenever not on location. Still, the argument about selling out in order to produce a product, rather than sticking to one’s guns and utilizing a meager budget to create a vision, is something best said another time.

What matters to audiences here and now is whether it’s worth shelling out their cash to see what’s been delivered. I’m a bit torn here, as I enjoyed a number of the elements director Anton Corbijn included. There are some stunning shots of the Italian countryside, which are even more majestic than those used in the recent travelogue-meets-soul-searching estrogen fest, “Eat Pray Love“. The pacing, though probably a bit slow for the casual film goer, is appropriately measured and deliberate for a story like this – which leans more towards character study than twisty thriller and is complimented by Herbert Grönemeyer’s score quite nicely.

Clooney is Clooney in the role. It’s actually not too far off from his role in “Out of Sight”, only with far less dialogue and a lot less smiling (which are the only differences you tend to see in his performances). And I’m not bagging on Clooney, he’s a likable movie star … I just don’t see much variation in any of his roles and he’s so recognizable that it’s hard to really concentrate on the character rather than the image and persona he’s built over the last decade.

The other actors are a bit more like stock characters, seemingly plucked from Clichés ‘R Us; the prostitute with a good heart looking to start a new life, the priest still looking to forgive his own sins and the spies all attempting to keep the audience guessing as to their true loyalties. Of course, that’s one of the bigger problems, shrewd audiences will see the attempted twists coming a mile away. To its credit, the film does provide one possible avenue for changing things up but ultimately decides that following the formula is the best decision.

If you’re keen on espionage films and don’t need a heap of action scenes to keep you interested, I wouldn’t fault you for checking this one out. However, if you’re hoping for a slightly older Jason Bourne or even just hankering for something Bond-esque, you’re not going to come away too satisfied with “The American” and I’m giving it a very shaky 3 out of 5. That slight tip towards the passing rating comes from a purely non-analytical standpoint though, thanks to the gorgeous Violante Placido and a healthy amount of nudity – Hey, I’m only human.