Previous Review
Next Review
September 3, 2010
Review - " The American "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to
The American
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Starring: George Clooney and pretty much nobody else

There are two kinds of thrillers - action-oriented endeavors such as
those popularized by James Bond and Jason Bourne, and slow-burn
motion pictures that rely less on pyrotechnics and gadgets and more on
psychology. The American belongs in the latter category. With an
unhurried pace and a focus on character over action or plot, this film
takes us into the mind and life of a hardened assassin and follows the
story to its natural conclusion. The tale is straightforward but many
questions, perhaps tangential to the core narrative, remain unanswered
once the screen has faded to black. The American ironically comes with
a European flavor, not only because it was filmed overseas but because
the style reflects the kind of movies favored by art house and film
festival audiences.

Opening with an impressively brutal sequence in Sweden, the setting
shifts to Italy for the remainder of the story where not a lot happens. It’s
unclear if Clark is hiding from Swedes or is there to kill somebody. In
fact, much of what takes place is fuzzy and disconnected and if not for
the somewhat clarifying and equally brutal final scenes, the film as a
whole would have to fall into the “not recommended” column.

The film is many things — impeccably photographed, well-acted and
written with sparse, penny-pinching economy. Each subsequent scene
tells us a little more about Clark and those he interacts with and
separately every single scene is a winner. However, as a collection of
scenes assembled to tell a riveting and coherent story, it doesn’t quite
pass grade.
It’s also not the action/adventure thrill ride indicated in the TV commercials. Every scene in the movie that features gunfire
(about six) and chase scenes (not quite two) are contained in the trailer. Unless you’re prepared to enjoy these few tidbits
while sitting through long stretches of moody, mostly dialogue-free set pieces, you are going to be severely disappointed.

What might prove to be a major letdown for mainstream action fans could easily please female art-house patrons to no end.
A very in-shape Clooney is often shown in the buff or shirtless on a number of occasions and the chemistry between him
and his two female co-stars (Thekla Reuten and Violante Placido) is electric. For the gents, the positively gorgeous Placido
(playing an upscale prostitute) is also frequently seen au naturale.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that
the novel on which “The American” is based
(“A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth)
is light years better than the film, which is not
necessarily a slam against screenwriter Rowan
Joffe or director Anton Corbijn. Distilling
something so dense and descriptive down to
a 100-minute movie is an unenviable task and
one that however well executed, will invite
negative comparisons. The film also makes
the point that not every great book
automatically qualifies as a worthy contender
for a big screen adaptation.

You wont
have to walk out but overall, I was