‘The American’ Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated September 2nd, 2010 at 9:41 am,

George Clooney The American movie reviews The American Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw reviews The American

The American is a title that should probably be taken with as sense of total irony, because George Clooney serving as leading man is probably the only “American” thing about this film. The director (Anton Corbijn) is from The Netherlands, the writers of both the source novel and screenplay based off of it (Martin Booth and Rowan Joffe respectively) both hail from the UK, and most of the co-stars sharing the screen with Clooney are also from across the pond, as they say.

Those going into The American expecting another Clooney action/thriller are going to walk away disappointed – those who are patient and can appreciate the aesthetic sensibilities of European cinema over the kinetic sensibilities of American cinema are going to be just fine.

Clooney plays the requisite assassin character – we never know his name for sure (Jack or Edward), he’s paranoid, highly skilled at killing, lonely and tortured. As the film opens, Edward (the name used more often in the film) is seemingly trying to settle down and adopt the life of an average man, which of course translates into finding someone (the lovely Irina Björklund) to share his life with. But of course love is never a good idea when you are in the assassin business – as Edward is reminded the hard way.

With enemies close on his tail, Edward contacts his handler, Pavel (Johan Leysen) and is relocated to a remote town in Italy to await further instructions. In the town of Castel del Monte, Edward tries to remain invisible, but ultimately attracts the attention of the local priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and Clara (Violante Placido), a local prostitute who Edward bonds with. Both Father and Benedetto and Clara recognize Edward as a tortured sinner in need of saving, be it via God or love, which may inevitably be one and the same (as the movie suggests).

However, even as Edward finds comfort in his new surroundings, old habits are hard to kill. He accepts a job to fashion a high-powered custom-made sniper rifle (gun-making is Edward’s specialty) for a lovely female assassin (Thekla Reuten), who is every bit the hardened professional that Edward… used to be.

George Clooney Thekla Reuten The American movie image 15 600x520 The American Review

From then on the story should be familiar: worlds collide and bullets fly, as the weary assassin tries to find love and redemption.

The American is not a fast-paced film, nor are there many instances of tension or suspense. The best words to describe the film would be “brooding” or “meditative,” though the subject matter being brooded and/or meditated upon is by now so conventional (even cliched) that there’s really not that much food for thought. Director Anton Corbijn’s real strength is in visual aesthetic, and The American certain plays to that strength. There are so many shots in this film that would be perfect for Italian tourism ads, and even more shots that would serve as great pieces of still image art. Corbijn frames his shots with impressive spacial awareness, so that characters are transposed against twisting and spiraling old-world architecture in a way that would impress even the best professional photographers.

However, once you get over how pretty the film looks, you may find yourself anxious to see something happen – and this is where you will run into problems. The American is basically a collection of slow-paced and heavy-handed scenes, primarily featuring close shots of Clooney’s face going through the spectrum of subdued “tortured soul” expressions, or wide shots of his body, which he cut into lean-muscle perfection for this role. Whenever you think the film might suddenly shift into high-gear, it simply settles back into its languid pace and (literally) fades into the next scene. When action does happen, it’s over very quickly, presented very realistically and kept very understated without a hint of melodrama – some viewers won’t consider it “action” at all. All in all I’d say there is one genuinely shocking moment, and one truly suspenseful one – and those two moments occur at either end of the movie.

George Clooney  Violante Placido The American The American Review

Along with pretty scenery, there are some pretty and talented foreign actresses on hand to keep (at least us guys) engaged. Violante Placido is very charming as Clara, a spirited prostitute with a heart of gold – though the amount of gorgeous skin she shows off throughout the film does make it fairly hard to hate her. Thekla Reuten (who also played a sexy assassin in a famous episode of Lost) is equally captivating as a woman who might tear Edward’s clothes or his head off at any given moment. When the ladies aren’t on the screen, the scenes in which Clooney confers with Paolo Bonacelli’s priest character attempt to be insightful and interesting, meditating on themes like morality, sin and love – but again, we’ve seen this kind of stuff in so many other hitman movies. It doesn’t detract from the film, but it doesn’t really enhance it either – like Clooney’s character, we the audience are trapped in a sort of limbo.

In the end, The American is a film you should only see in theaters if you have a distinct love of the more artistic sensibilities of cinema (which I do, hence the three stars). If you’re hoping for something to get your blood pumping, you may be in for a long nap instead.

Check out the trailer for the film to help you decide:

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. It looks a little like the Merry Gentleman starring Michael Keaton. I will most likely be renting this one but I do except a possible Golden Globe and Oscar bid for Clooney again. The movie looks exceptional visually and I am interested in the action scenes without melodrama.

  2. I’m interested in seeing this. By the way, best retiring assassin movie (yes, it’s a sub genre!), has to be The Matador. Pierce Brosnan is hillarious!

  3. I love this website but sorry I gotta say that this website has some of the worst reviews I’ve ever seen. You guys pretty much describe the entire movie up until the end, spoiling everything in the process. It’s not just this site, it’s annoying cause a lot of other sites do it too. There are reviewers out there who give really good reviews without spoiling anything, I wish others would learn from them. Cause reading some SparkNotes version of the movie isn’t what I’d call a review.

    • dont keep coming here then, problem solved mate

    • Good thing for me that i dont care about spoilers! i will enjoy the film just as much even though i know the whole plot. but maybe you should read it again, cause he clearly reviews it.

  4. Mike you really needed a review to find out this is another lame Clooney film?

    I don’t get why he’s even in films?

    • well because he has something on someone in the indusrty, though im one of the few that actually liked The Men Who Stare At Goats

      • Anthony I sort of enjoyed Men who star as well. It was pretty funny. It wasn’t great, but I enjoyed it for one viewing.

    • Oh I have no interest in this film at all. I think the only George Clooney movie I’ve ever seen was Batman & Robin.

  5. I liked “Goats” but that’s because I liked the real backstory part of the films plot.

    Not because of Clooney.

    • i went to see it because of jeff bridges…and that it was based of factual event..nothing the government does surprises me anymore

  6. Yeah the origins of Remote Viewing was the basis for the plot.

    Ed Dames was part of that real military group Ant’s. He also provided techical assistance on the remote viewing film. “Suspect Zero”

    • is that the one with Ben Kingsley?

  7. Wow, this sounds reallly lame. PASS.

  8. Yes that’s the one Anthony. 😉

    • never saw it, gonna have to cue it up on netflix now :)

  9. To say it was boring was a gross understatement

  10. Clooney and action don’t match, in my opinion.

    • John Clooney and most films don’t match in my opinion lol.

  11. I like Clooney. He was awsome in out of sight, burn after reading, oh brother, I actually like most of his films.

  12. So the main complaint; it’s slow paced. For me, thats not really a problem.

    • slow paced isnt an issue with me either sam…just really am not a CLooney fan

  13. Well yeah, thats fair enough

  14. I will be seeing this during the weekend. After I check out “Machete” and “Gone with the Pope” of course

  15. Not only are most of the people involved not America, but the American star is actually fairly anti America and pretty much talks trash about the country every chance he gets. I really have no respect for him. I hate most of his films and can’t stand him as a person. He fits right in with Sean Penn, Angelina and Micheal Moore.

  16. Most of the points mentioned carry some merit …….. however, I actually think that Cloony did a good job in this ……. I quite enjoyed it. Dare I say this was his best film to date?…… ducks…….

  17. “The American is a title that should probably be taken with as sense of total irony, because George Clooney serving as leading man is probably the only “American” thing about this film.”

    I would say the real irony is that “The American” in the movie is played by an actor that is really Anti-American. Now if that’s not art I don’t know what is… 😀

  18. “I would say the real irony is that “The American” in the movie is played by an actor that is really Anti-American. Now if that’s not art I don’t know what is… ”

    couldn’t agree more Ken said the same thing my self earlier

  19. “lax airport hotels”, love that handle,,,

    Enjoy the view,,,!

  20. I went and saw the american and truthfully, this critic’s review was much too kind. It was Soooooooooooooo slow paced.

  21. This is a very good movie! For some reason, I am always surprised how good George Clooney is.

    I enjoyed it! After seeing the movie, I like it better than when I was watching it.

  22. I went to see this movie for free, and I have to say, I got robbed. The movie was so boring. I understand what the writer and director was trying to convey but my goodness, put some action in the thing already. Ok, there were a couple of action scenes and one sex scene but you can easily miss them because you will most likely fall asleep. The review was waaaaayyyy too kind.

    • The review was fair. I like this type of move and clearly said it’s not for everybody.

      You were fairly warned :-)

  23. I just saw this in the theater, I like the subtle style of film-making but parts of it seemed a bit TOO subtle. I feel like the Subtlety of it displayed in a movie like “Unbreakable” reached just the perfect tone. A bit boring at times for sure, but a decent film overall, I completely agree with the 3/5 rating.

  24. mmmm La peor pelicula de Clooney, demasiado lenta, yo no vi el arte por ningun lado, nada de accion… si las escenas de desnudez de una mujer haciendo el papel de prostituta son consideradas arte…. Que dios nos libre…

  25. Boring ,slow, waste of money!!!


  27. do NOT i reapeat, do NOT go see this film, the ending sums up how shocking this film really is!

  28. I found this film captivating. Clooney was great in a largely understated performance, although the lack of physicality was offset entirely and then some by the incredible expressiveness of the eyes. The pacing was perfect and grew the tension exquisitely. I loved every moment of it. One of my favorite flics of the year.