THE AMERICAN (2010)


 Greetings again from the darkness. George Clooney takes another step towards his dark side … way beyond his role in the superb Up in the Air. Here he plays a man of singular focus. No, that’s not quite right. He is not so much a man as a tool or vehicle. He is an assassin who is also an expert assembler of specialized weapons for contract killings.

Clooney follows the commands of his master or leader or employer without much discussion, and certainly no debate. The two communicate via phone in short, terse bursts … just like a kill. The leader is played intensely by Johan Leyson. He has a face designed purely to play evil. From the opening scene, we know people are trying to kill Clooney. He knows this too. So he heads to a quiet, picturesque Italian countryside town to “work” on his next assignment.

His meet is with Thekla Reuten, fellow assassin. Their conversation is not riddled with fluff, only the requirements for the job. You might remember Ms. Reuten as the innkeeper from In Bruges. She manages to pull off the assassin role despite … or is it because of … her beauty.

As with every singular focused assassin I have ever met, Clooney’s weakness comes in the form of love. He wants to feel normal and complete. Here, his hope for normal comes in the form of Clara, a local prostitute. Of course, only assassins and Richard Gere characters look for normal at a bordello. Clara is played well by Violante Placido and the two form an awkward bond. Or do they? That’s really the core of the film and the only real clue provided is Clooney’s nickname, Mr. Butterfly.

This can be viewed as yet another “last job, then I’m out” film, a coming-of-middleage quest, or a character study of a guy seeking normalcy. What it’s not is an action film or Bourne type film that the trailer suggests. Much of the action in this film is related to sunglass changes and slow gum chewing. Director Anton Corbjin is known mostly for his music videos and here he delivers tremendous camera work to go along with minimal dialogue … most of which occurs when the great Paolo Bonacelli is on screen as Father Benedetto.

The film has a classic European thriller look and feel to it.  Not much dialogue, but plenty of intense circumstances and facial expressions to tell the complete story.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy assembling the clues offered through minimal dialogue and a furrowed brow … or you enjoy watching Clooney do some chin-ups and yoga.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are looking for hardcore action with car chases and explosions.

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