Dec 8 2010 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
THE American stars George Clooney as assassin Jack who decides to hide out in the Italian countryside after an attempt on his life.
While there he builds up a friendship with priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and romance with Clara (Violante Placido), but is he putting himself at risk by helping out with another hit?
The American is a peculiar movie as it is very polished and well made but staggeringly dull for the most part.
The film is an adaptation of English writer Martin Booth’s 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman and you get the impression that this type of character study piece would translate better on the written page than it does on the big screen.
Dutch director Anton Corbijn is behind the camera and his background consists of music videos and 2007’s Ian Curtis biopic Control.
He uses lots of quick-cuts to give the film an old-school vibe and a repetitive use of non-dialogue scenes, especially in the first half hour.
Certain scenes linger too long. Jack’s painstaking weapon construction shows his forensic attention to detail but is boring to watch.
We see more shots of Jack walking than taking part in gunplay and while Corbijn’s decision to go low-key is brave, I yearned for Bourne/Leon levels of assassin sparks and activity.
Clooney follows-up his Oscar-baiting turn in Up in the Air early this year with an effective performance that plays against type.
A furrowed brow takes over from smirks and the twinkle in the eye is replaced by darting eyes that, along with regular gum chewing, embody a man on edge.
Corbijn has surrounded Clooney with foreign actors who will be relatively unknown to these shores and Bonacelli and Placido do fine in relatively small roles.
The Italian locations make for a lovely backdrop and a wintry opening showcasing Jack’s ruthlessness is the movie’s highlight.
A scooter pursuit is the closest thing to a Bourne film-type car chase but it’s followed by more chat and non-chat.
It doesn’t help that you’re left cold to the characters. We’re kept at arm’s length and no-one is hugely likeable. I wasn’t that bothered whether Jack got his happy ending or not.
A decent climax finally sees something happen and despite the slow pace and lack of oomph the movie never approaches awful territory.
The American certainly won’t get your pulse racing but if you can stay with it through the walking, metal work and cafe visits there is some quality material to stir your senses.
This isn’t Clooney’s ‘Jason Bourne,’ though, and if you want to see a ‘Jack’ tearing up his enemies, and the screen, check out 24 instead.
Rating - 6 out of 10.