Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The American (2010, Anton Corbijn)

Is there any archetypal character with a higher mortality rate than that of the crook doing his last job? Once you know that, The American becomes a slow trudge to an inevitable end, complete with a Rififi-style last drive. Harsh? Perhaps. But though The American aspires to be a high-toned take on a stock genre premise, it feels fairly standard-issue. Oh sure, George Clooney manages to smuggle his trademark cool into the story. However, aside from some pretty but fairly uninspired images, there doesn’t seem to be much on the mind of former music video director Corbijn. Oh sure, there’s plenty of arthouse ponderousness and hearkening back to genre classics (some Melville here, a dash of Leone there), but this is a film with almost nothing to say. And for a while, Corbijn almost manages to make it work largely because he whittles down the story to almost nothing aside from Clooney immersing himself in the job.

The American ultimately loses its way by reverting to conventional plotting, in which the nature of Clooney’s job is revealed, a possibly risky dalliance with a local prostitute turns into the hero’s best hope to escape, and so on. The most glaring example of this comes in the form of Clooney’s handler Pavel, played by Johan Leysen, who exists in the movie solely to voice what little subtext there is (“you’re losing it”) and to set the plot in motion for the dunderheads in the audience. In the end, The American is a textbook 5, meaning it’s largely a near-miss but a diverting enough one, thanks to the expected Clooney coolness and plenty of welcome nudity from the luscious Violante Placido.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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