The American (R16)

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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/10/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Anton Corbijn's follow-up to Control is beautifully shot and features a terrific performance by George Clooney but the predictable script doesn't add anything new to an overly familiar story.

What's it all about?
Directed by Anton Corbijn and adapted from a novel by Martin Booth (A Very Private Gentleman), The American stars George Clooney as Jack, a world-weary assassin and arms expert who hides out in the remote Italian village of Castel del Monte after his latest job makes him a target. To pass the time, Jack accepts a commission to make a powerful weapon for slinky Belgian hitwoman Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), but it's only a matter of time before his past catches up with him.

Meanwhile, Jack (or possibly Edward – he has two names and we never find out which is the alias) strikes up relationships with both a remarkably understanding local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and gorgeous tart-with-a-heart Clara (Violante Placido), who is soon captivated by a combination of his chiselled good looks and his rather eyebrow-raising bedroom prowess.

The Good
As you'd expect from photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn, The American is beautifully shot, whether it's the stunning location work (the film was shot in and around the mountains of Abruzzo) or the strikingly lit, nudity-friendly sex scenes, which Corbijn bathes in luxurious red light, just in case you hadn't already worked out that Clara is a prostitute.

Clooney delivers an impressive performance that's significantly different from his usual twinkly, good-humoured screen persona; to that end there's a brilliantly shocking moment in the opening sequence that the film subsequently fails to live up to. There's also strong support from Bonaceli and from Violante Placido (clearly a star in the making), who brings a much needed warmth to the film as Clara.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the story is overly familiar and basically follows the plot of every hit-man-trying-to-go-straight movie you've ever seen – the influence of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 thriller Le Samourai (with Alain Delon, very much the Clooney of his day) is particularly palpable throughout. That said, Corbijn orchestrates some effectively tense action sequences and makes strong use of his striking location during an effectively suspenseful stalking scene.

Worth seeing?
The American is consistently entertaining, with the stunning visuals and superb performances ultimately compensating for the predictable, cliche laden plot.

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The American (R16)
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Content updated: 21/06/2019 05:48

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