Posted by: greercn | December 21, 2010

The American

You’d think that the combination of the very wonderful Anton Corbijn and the gorgeous George Clooney would make for an interesting movie. You’d be wrong.

Corbijn is responsible for “Control”, the compelling film about Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s lead singer. Having seen that at least 10 times, I expected “The American” to build colour and light into formed characters with depth. The early scenes are promising, moving from Sweden to Italy with some style and attention to detail.

George plays a hired killer – upmarket and clever – who is starting to get sick of the job. The novel  – “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth –  is thoughtful and looks under the skin of evil.

George reprises part of his world-weary schtick from “Up In The Air” but is not nearly as cute nor as well-scripted. I liked “Up In The Air” better on DVD than I had liked it on the big screen, but it still won’t make my top ten list of anything, except for packing hints.

So the whole thing just lumbers on and on. Where it should be threatening, with little lanes and alleys running into each other and backlit rather fetchingly – it just irritates. Nothing ever seems to go anywhere at all and you just don’t care. Even the shocking bits cloy, as if they are from the least interesting B movies.

There’s a large Catholic priest with a dark secret, a nasty Russian mastermind, a man on a Vespa and several hookers with hearts of gold. Are you yawning yet? Now, imagine watching that. And in the freezing cold, as Stratford Picture House continues to have issues with Mr Heating (which I am promised will be fixed tomorrow and, anyway, assisted the authentic feel of the Swedish snow scenes).

Skip this. The only good thing about it is Violante Placido’s Clara (playing the main hooker with a heart of gold). Her talent may ensure her a future beyond this clunker. She features as George’s love interest in some not-bad sex scenes. These scenes almost lift the whole, very temporarily, but they pass quickly.

George and Anton – what on earth were you thinking about? On the plus side of the ledger, I saw “Tron – Legacy” again and it was even better the second time around. I was able to really concentrate on the 3D effects.

I tried the 3D glasses with “The American” but to no avail. Pity.



  1. i saw this film two days ago on dvd, and while i share your assessment as a whole, i found the film visually interesting and the scenery in both sweden and italy was quite beautiful.
    the problems began for me at the climax of the film, when the ringleader tells the woman clooney built the gun for to kill him, and then kills her instead before being killed and mortally wounding clooney in the arm’s length ‘gun battle’.
    it didn’t make any sense, and left me cold (as though i’d watched it in your local theatre!), wondering what the f?
    oh well… that may be the first clooney film i can’t say glowing things about. but it did make me want to visit castel del monte, or whatever that lovely village was called.

    • I agree with you that there are incoherent plot twists, which veer from the allowable to the frankly weird (in a bad way). What the heck is the scooter motif all about? Actually, the first scenes make no real sense, when you think about them. Yes, it’s all pretty. It makes me want to go to Italy again. I have always found Clooney erratic and didn’t much like “Syriana”, “Michael Clayton” or “Up In The Air”, but others I know liked those movies. I’ll watch anything with Clint Eastwood, Harvey Keitel or Ryan Gosling, of the younger group. B ut there is something too polished about Mr Clooney.

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