I’m not opposed at all to the minimalist approach when it comes to movies. Not at all. I’m not opposed to movies set in remote locales (like New Jersey. Or Europe), nor do I mind forays into subtitles. In fact, a movie that is spartan in dialogue often works, since it allows you to interject your own emotions into the lead characters subtleties.
The American is not one of those movies.
Now, my friends Nathan and Megan of Unknown Films are people who I consider fans of a wide spectrum of the entire cinematic genre, and I’d guess the more obscure the better when it comes to off-kilter flicks whereas I tend to love Anchorman. But I wonder how they’d rate The American, since this movie may appeal to people with discerning tastes while I found myself relieved when it was over (despite getting into the theater late, missing the previews (which always chaps my ass) and missing the first 7 seconds of the movie). Why?
I’ll tell you why.
Even the fact that you get to see a lot of George Clooney semi-naked (a plus for resident superfan, Chris Louzader) and many beautiful women (some of whom absolutely refuse to wear a shirt) interact in a thoughtful, sparse manner can’t save the movie from coming across as though the actors are on the verge of dozing off themselves. It is set in a remote village of Italy where, apparently only three people live and most refuse to acknowledge occasional random gunfire. Burned-out assassin Jack (Clooney) retreats there to contemplate one last job of building a gun. He spends his time drinking coffee out of tiny cups and strolling on wet, cobblestone streets always on the lookout for a mysterious gang of Swedes who wish to see him dead. Oh, and spending time trying not to fall in love with a beautiful hooker. I find it curious that hookers and heroes in the movies rarely look like their real-life counterparts, but that’s another essay for another day.
One of the core problems is that you really never glance into the past to see his work as an assassin; outside of some light pistol work, he seems to pass his free time brooding, probably a common trait of the trade. Unfortunately, you get to experience the brooding in real time. This makes for cinematic boredom, despite the beautiful scenery that was as stark and lonesome as the dialogue. Only Clooney comes out the winner, as he’s able display some restraint-based acting chops while taking us on the journey of a paranoid hired gun.
A complete Euro-flop? Nah. Just another tale of love and bore.
Overall Movie Score: Barely a C+