'American' idle: George Clooney hit-man thriller restrained to the point of boredom
Directed by Anton Corbijn
Starring George Clooney, Violante Placido,
In “The American,” a psychological thriller that’s not nearly as thrilling as its trailers would have you think, George Clooney plays an assassin who’s had it with his job.
“I’m out,” he tells his boss, a cryptic, craggy-faced man whom we meet mostly on the other end of the phone line. The boss assents, but dispatches Jack to a small village in Italy for one last job. As it turns out, even in Nowhereville Jack has assassin foes on his tail.
Jack’s final job is not a hit, but rather an assignment to build a gun for a mysterious female client. He spends his days drilling, carving, gathering and painstakingly placing metal parts. In between he does push-ups and pull-ups, sleeps, reads, chats with the town priest, visits a town prostitute.
It’s a dull life for an assassin, and director Anton Corbijn indulges in it one mundane detail at a time.
It’s clear what Corbijn is trying to do. Here is Jack, an assassin worn thin by his trade. All he wants is a life where he can make love to a leggy brunette without fearing she’ll shoot him. You understand his weariness, but you don’t quite believe it, what with Clooney’s perma-grin. Clooney can parlay his boyish looks into many things, but a world-weary assassin is not one of them.
Corbijn’s restraint is admirable, at times elegant, but the movie doesn’t have the goods to support such a minimalist script. Instead of feeling sympathy for Jack, you end up feeling bored by him. There is an art to capturing the mundane details of life without it actually feeling mundane. That art is lost on “The American.”