George Clooney in The American

Movie Review: The American

NEW YORK – The news came this week that The American, the latest with George Clooney, took in more than $16 million at the US box office over the Labor Day Weekend. Thats a reflection of the depth of Clooneys fan base. The portentously-titled The American is not much of a film. No one but a Clooney fan would go see it.

Im nominating it for worst western of the year.

Western? The template for this humorless ambitious tale which aims at creating a classic is the “stranger comes to town” western that you would normally associate with Clint Eastwood or one of the Clint-clones. In the spaghetti western days of Sergio Leone – westerns filmed in Italy, which was cheap back then – the blood flowed like marinara sauce.

This one is adapted by Rowan Joffe from A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth, and directed by Anton Corbijn. It begins in Sweden, where Jack (Clooney) sits uneasily in a cabin with a beautiful woman who isnt wearing anything. Soon the bad guys appear in the snow outside. He shoots them, and then calls his handler for advice. “Go to Italy,” hes told, and Jack heads to Abruzzo, in the hills northeast of Rome, where the village where he hides out to make a gun and plan his last assassination has a warm-hearted priest and even warmer-hearted prostitute with whom Jack falls in love. All the while, this assassin seeking redemption is being targeted by a killer.

George Clooney and Violante Placido in "The American"

George Clooney and Violante Placido in "The American"

Still awake? In case you havent guessed, The American is so loaded with clich̩s that it can barely stumble forward Рeverything except a Muslim villain, thank God. It looks a lot more like something inspired by John Le Carre than James Bond, despite the abundant nudity Рall female.

I wont give the ending away. But the ending isnt the problem with this film. Clooney as a brooding stranger in an Italian town was miscast – and in movies, whatever you think of the acting, most of it is casting. He is this eras Clark Gable, not its Clint Eastwood.  The contemplative look of the film has been considered unique by some critics – they just havent seen the lavish brochures for overpriced Italian country hotels.

Clooney seems to have been after an iconic style here. So much for misdirected ambition. Since its not his game, he turns The American into something pretentious. Beyond pretentious, its unbelievable. Clara, the prostitute (played by beautiful Violante Placido, daughter of Simonetta Stefanelli, who played Michael Corleones dynamited bride in The Godfather) just happens to work horizontally in this tiny town, and just happens to be as wholesome as a schoolgirl. If you believe that, go try to find someone like her in one of these towns.

Better yet, go try to find a better film with George Clooney.  Im sure the next one will be, if Clooney can get back in touch with what hes good at. The same goes for the director, Anton Corbijn, who strayed too far from the rhythmic gestural style of Control on this one.

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