Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The American (2010)

The American thinks very highly of itself. Inspired by the 70s paranoia thriller oeuvre and star George Clooney’s dedication to the ironically trendy Hollywood Art House movement he and creative partner Steven Soderberg keep trying to usher in, American fancies itself an important character piece, characteristically complex and visually arresting. In some ways it is both those things, but mostly it’s just boring.


As a fan of those paranoia flicks and as someone who enjoys AMC’s Rubicon on a weekly basis, I’m an advocate of quiet, slow-boil cinema. There’s something enjoyably novel-esque to work that refuses to adhere to our over-explained, over-caffeinated entertainment mentality. I appreciate pointed simplicity. So my issue with The American isn’t that “nothing ever happens”, but that we don’t really care when it finally does.

Clooney plays an expat named Jack, a hit man/gun enthusiast/sinner of some kind isolated in the hills of northern Italy. “The Swedes” are after him… for some reason. His “boss” doesn’t like him… for some reason. And Clooney generally spends his time moping suspiciously about, for more reasons we’ll never know. In fact, we know very little about this man, except that he likes to work out, drink coffee and shoot things. Oh and hookers. He likes them too.

Working women appeal to Jack for their disposability, except Jack can’t seem to stop falling for them… for some reason. My guess is that after all these years of doing… something, the guy is desperate for companionship. So in his new Italian home he falls for Irina Bjorklund’s Ingrid, a local who really, really hates clothes. This is a problem with his boss… for some reason, and provides some semblance of plot. But by the time that rolls around, you won’t care anyway.

In thrillers, the best mysteries, when solved, often only open up doors to new mysteries. It’s a question/answer thing. The American posits many questions, and provides almost no answers, solid, debatable or otherwise. It isn’t interested in your questions, really. It doesn’t care what you think, or what you want to know. Clooney’s Jack is meant to be a stranger. We aren’t meant to get inside his head, to see what makes him tick. We’re meant to keep a distance, and that distance is this film’s great fault.

Clooney isn’t acting as much as stonewalling, except for when he’s chasing or shooting, which is rare. Don’t see this movie expecting Jason Bourne, and don’t see this movie expecting fireworks from Clooney. Expect some decently executed paranoia, and one or two interesting sequences.  Expect much more of the slow, uninteresting non-drama. Expect initial intrigue that quickly stales.

Expect boring. Director Anton Corbijn is an accomplished photographer, and his film is a moving picture book. It looks very nice, but it offers very little.

1 comment:

Observer said...

I wish I had read this review prior to seeing the movie. You hit it dead on the head, this movie is not worth seeing I want my two hours back. it was so boring I actually feel a sleep at one point, in the theater, at 4:00 in the afternoon. I almost walked out. I just can't belive they actually put this on film and thought they made an actual movie, this movie started no where and went no where, and when it was over I was just glad it finally ended so I could leave.

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