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September 7, 2010 > Movie Review: The American - A slowly paced thriller

Movie Review: The American - A slowly paced thriller

By Joe Samagond

Directed by Italian filmmaker Anton Corbijn, The American (2010) stars George Clooney as Jack, a professional assassin. The entire setting is in Europe, mostly Italy so he stands out as "the American." Hence, the name.

The movie starts calmly in Sweden but the quiet is shattered when Jack realizes that there are hit men after him. He takes them out and at the same time coldly eliminates his girlfriend who may be a witness. Jack gets in touch with a mysterious handler, Pavel (Johan Leysen), in Rome who dispatches him to the Italian countryside, until he can figure out next steps.

Working a new job from the village of Abruzzo, Jack constructs an exotic high-powered rifle for a mysterious hit woman (Thekla Reuten). He is very much a solitary figure, a man who lives in a spare space, whose car is often the only one on isolated winding Italian roads at any given time. Jack's way of showing delight is minimal. He deadpans his way through life, though he always seems to be chewing gum. Jack (though he is now Edward in Italy) finds companionship with the local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and prostitute Clara (Violante Placido). The priest often pokes at his conscience, though Jack holds his moral ground well when he exposes the priest's illegitimate son.

If lured by TV commercials depicting a gun-toting George Clooney and you are expecting a Bourne-style bonanza, please reset your expectations for a slow moving European thriller. While satisfying and thoughtful, the story leaves significant gaps that are not fully explained. For example, we don't know why people want Jack dead, so one has to assume it is due to his past handiwork.

Scenes of the Italian countryside are superb and dramatic providing a showcase for Mr. Clooney's dramatic skills; he does deliver with a strong understated performance. The movie keeps the audience guessing about who will live, who will die and whose finger will be on the trigger. A little more clarity in the story would have made it a much stronger experience.

Rated: Rated R for violence, sexual content and nudity.
Runtime: 1 hour 43 minutes

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