The American


Clooney gets an Italian job…

The American review

Put Melville's Le Samourai, Bertolucci’s The Conformist and Antonioni’s The Passenger into a big movie blender and you get The American, a stylish throwback to the existential crime thrillers of the ’70s.

Directed by Anton Corbijn (Control), it’s a thoughtful, solemn character study that casts a mesmeric spell. Until the end, that is, when – instead of delivering the dramatic climax we have been led to expect – it takes an abrupt nose-dive into laughable pretentiousness.

Clooney is Jack, a melancholy hitman who – having survived an assassination attempt in snowy Sweden – takes refuge amid the cobbled streets and medieval architecture of Abruzzo, Italy.

Befriended by a philosophical priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and serviced by a kindly hooker (Violante Placido), he starts to contemplate a change of career. But when he’s called upon to build a rifle for another killer (Thekla Reuten), it becomes clear his old life will be harder to walk away from than he imagines.

Anchored by its star’s brooding, largely wordless performance and Corbijn’s insistent escalation of ominous menace, The American uses fleeting bursts of action as torpor-breaking punctuation.

It also takes pleasure in depicting Jack at work. His painstaking assembly of a firearm, a silencer and mercury-tipped bullets show him to be as much a craftsman as he is a skilled executioner.

Gradually, the affectations of Rowan Joffe’s script – a recurring butterfly motif, for instance, or laboured nods to Jack’s outsider status – become too jarring to ignore.

Meanwhile, Joffe’s ponderous dialogue defeats Corbijn’s European cast and the pay-off is downright tittersome.

There’s an admirable conviction to the film’s austerity and formality, and it’s courageous of the Cloone-meister to so rigidly suppress his natural charm. But the overall lack of humour practically dares the audience to provide their own.


Corbijn’s bold stab at reviving the minimalism and mystery of ’70s cinema has its strengths but ultimately overreaches itself. Closer to Michael Clayton than Ocean’s Eleven, it’ll leave Clooney fans divided.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • OnScreen

      Nov 3rd 2010, 12:35


      Great film, tad slow but George's performance maintained my interest. Here's a full review:

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    • egipt

      Nov 29th 2010, 18:12


      This tunezja wczasy movie was EXCELLENT, well hiszpania wczasy made, well acted !!! grecja wczasy

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    • smoochyblue

      Dec 1st 2010, 19:50

      I found "The American" and it worked for me on a spiritual level. A hit man who can be cold yet whose conscience has not been completely obliterated seeks salvation and ironically becomes a type of saviour to a prostitute who he takes up with. There is a lack of humour in this movie but it reflect the grim reality of the situation that the hit man (george Clooney) finds himself in. on this level I believe the film works well and I was glad that it didn't enter the foray of the shoot em all up! movies that hollywood sometimes puts out. Okay its not the dazzling film of 2010 but i believe it was a film worth watching.

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    • chapmanc79

      Dec 2nd 2010, 14:39


      This movie goes down as one of the worst I have ever seen. There is a complete lack of plot throughout and relies heavily on the viewer to fill in all the blanks. Also they may as well have made this a silent movie as there can be no more than 300 words spoken throughout the entire movie. I can't see how anyone could get anything from this film. Pretentious Rubbish!!

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    • xpialidoceous

      Dec 3rd 2010, 17:52


      The only reason this movie works AT ALL is because of Clooney. He has enough star power and skill to turn his tormented character (read: boring nag) into an almost likeable a**hole. But everything else about this movie is pure remedy for insomnia - Euro trash masking as something stylish and 'artsy'. Avoid.

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    • gonzoBen

      Dec 4th 2010, 12:24


      If you want a 70's existential thriller... then watch a 70's a existsntial thriller. Disappointing, conisdering the pedigree involved.

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    • mdovey

      Dec 6th 2010, 16:47


      In a world of films that seem to rely on CGI, dot to dot plotting and tailored to anyone under the age of about 19 (which I will admit to being slightly above - ahem! - but don't get me wrong I still enjoy a good throwaway blast fest like the next man) - it was nice to have a slow burner of a film, which whilst not exactly a new idea, treated you like a grown up and let you enjoy both the restrained performances and wonderful cinematography. Clooney once again proves more than a pretty face with a performance amongst his best, and the rest of the cast whilst slightly sterotypical, all give more than able support. Granted it's not for all, but more films like this would be gratefully received.

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    • fotograf

      Jan 7th 2011, 7:06

      Looking for site like this for long time. artystyczna plener ślubny mogąc byc z wami wszędzie fotografia ślubna Katowice ogłądnij moja inną galerie zawierajacą

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    • mp326

      Aug 20th 2011, 10:34


      By some viewers, ‘The American,’ based on the novel ‘A Very Private Gentleman’ by British author Martin Booth, will be deemed ‘a work of art.’ By others - a dull, overly long character piece, lacking in both plot and pace. So which is it? Well each of these views can be fully appreciated and understood after having reached the 100 minute mark. It depends almost entirely on the level of your expectations and whether or not you have the patience to be rewarded by what for me was a very engrossing and compelling piece of film. But my immediate reaction after having left the cinema 100 minutes and nine pounds sixty later? – Certainly that this is a film which cares more about taking a look at the behaviour of character rather than your conventional Hollywood tale full of stylish edits, breakneck cliffhangers, predictable dialogue and cheesy love scenes. Ultimately though, my very first thought was ‘what a pleasant surprise.’ - If film-goers are used to watching a lot of the Hollywood thrillers like the one’s I’ve just described (e.g. ‘Quantum of Solace,’ ‘Taken’...etc – good films in their own right) then of course ‘The American’ will seem like the slow, boring, “nothing really happens” film it’s been accused of being. You can’t come straight from having watched Angelina Jolie’s ‘Salt’ or Liam Neeson’s ‘The A Team’ and expect to enjoy ‘The American,’ which you’ll have seen advertised as a spy thriller with George Clooney, so it’s only natural to think that it will follow in a similar fashion. It doesn’t. - Instead, ‘The American’ follows more in the wake of thrillers like Mel Gibson’s ‘Edge of Darkness’ in terms of action/suspense and more like Jeff Bridges’ ‘True Grit’ in terms of character/plot development. Instead of long winded action set pieces, it has sudden but meaningful bursts of violence which work almost as effectively as in ‘Edge of Darkness’ to contrast the slow but involving scenes of character and intrigue that worked so well in ‘True Grit.’ So if your tastes run more toward the mainstream of Hollywood thrillers then maybe this is not the film for you. However, what if I told you the film contains a car chase, five assassination attempts on Clooney’s character, a femme fatale who isn’t all she appears to be, a suspenseful foot pursuit through a narrow maze of streets with two professional hit men trying to outwit and kill one another, a steamy sex scene, a face to face showdown and a 7 person bodycount (more than ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’). Well it does. But although this may not sound boring, I can understand how the direction and execution of these set pieces could be interpreted as such. Anton Corbijn, a Dutch director known for his photography and music videos, effectively has the opposite of Paul Greengrass’s flashy editing of handheld cameras used to create a sense of urgency that was used for the Bourne films, instead opting for a more reflective take on the action. Fans of Clooney will either love or hate this film. Those who aren’t fans of Clooney are likely to love it, as he gives arguably the most un-Clooney like performance of his career to date, using the same solemn intensity we saw flashes of in ‘Michael Clayton’ and ‘Syriana’ and turning it up to the max. Gone is the easy smile and likable charm that Clooney is known for excuding better than anyone, replaced with hard eyed stares and a stong sense of vulnerability that Clooney does well not to overdo when communicating the troubles of his flawed character to the audience. Aided by a fresh and solid supporting cast with the likes of Thekla Reuten (In Bruges), Violante Placido and Paolo Bonacelli, Clooney has a great deal of talent to play off and Herbert Grönemeyer’s contemplative music score only underlines and adds to the atmospheric, brooding quality that the film proudly posesses. Reuten brings a coldly effective steeliness to her emotionless assassin, Placido is immediately likeable as Clara, the sweet and loving prostitiute and Bonacelli delivers a knowing, world weary gravitas to his philosophical role as the priest that makes you hang on to his every word and whose scenes with Clooney are the forefront for the film’s moral statement and raising of questions. So eventually, the audience end up rooting for a hit man and a prostitute, showing that not everyone is black or white. Assassination of innocent people and prostitution as occupations are controversial to say the least, so why do we end up liking these characters and wanting them to be happy? Even the squeaky clean priest is shown to have kept a dark secret, hidden away in his past. So the film’s message is that everyone, no matter who they are, strives to be better and find redemption. Every single character is revealed to have sinned one way or another and a powerful line from the film is Clooney’s response to the priest when being told to seek God’s forgiveness, ‘I don’t think God’s very interested in me Father.’ Something which could be said for all the characters and all of us in general, as highlighted by Clooney’s meaningful line, ‘All men are sinners.’ Verdict: Not perfect but with wonderful craftsmanship from Corbijin’s subtle direction to a powerful, hard hitting performance by Clooney, this is the first of its kind for the thriller genre. And hopefully not the last. If you keep an open mind and watch it with no expectations, then like me - you’ll find ‘The American’ to be a very pleasant surprise. A smart and subtle piece of drama. Review by MARK PAYNE

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