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Customer Review

48 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bad marketing/Evocative movie, November 17, 2010
This review is from: The American (DVD)
The American' is a quietly powerful story and badly marketed by Focus Features. This is a slow burn character study that is ultimately very close to a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's film 'Le Samourai'.

Director Anton Corbijn and scribe Rowan Joffe have taken Martin Booth's novel and crafted a real masterpiece here. George Clooney gives a top 5 performance as an assassin with a moral crisis of sorts, and those who stick with this film are rewarded.

BUT: It's definitely not for everyone. Those who are game for it are likely to become big fans. The film likely won't do much damage in the Oscar race, but that doesn't mean it isn't deserving of attention, because it definitely is. Jack (Clooney) is an assassin hiding out in a small Italian village. While there, he's supposed to keep a low profile and just wait for his next assignment. According to his boss (Johan Leysen) it's supposed to be simple, he'll just be making a custom rifle for another assassin (Thekla Reuten), not evening firing it. His lack of connection to the world gets to him however, and he soon finds himself seeing a local prostitute (Violante Placido) and befriending the town's priest (Paolo Bonacelli). Occasionally, someone will try to kill Jack, but that's almost beside the point in this film. The focus is far more on the potential romance with the prostitute and the possibly redemption of Jack's soul.

George Clooney is excellent here, taking risks again as an actor and stripped of all of his charm. He's rarely been better than he is here. The film lives and dies by his performance, and he's more than up to the challenge. The movie would suffer if a lesser actor was in the role. He's supported by an almost exclusively foreign cast, and they accent Clooney well, while not stealing the spotlight. Leysen is mostly seen talking to Clooney on the phone, but he's suitably menacing. Reuten comes off as both sexy and deadly, which is essentially for her scenes with Clooney. As for his two non-violent companions, his chemistry with Placido is very strong (and sexual...she's not afraid of nudity in the least), while it's more of a father-son thing with Bonacelli. No one here is bad, but it's the Clooney show through and through in this flick. Corbijn is a visual stylist while not being flashy, in the vein of the directors of the 1970's. Here he lingers on shots of Italy, making the village almost a character unto itself. Some might fault his extraordinarily slow pacing, but I found it more deliberate than "slow", per say. The script by Joffe is good, but wouldn't be what it is without Corbijn directing it and Clooney acting in it. Of the three major players, Corbijn is most deserving of awards attention, but ironically is the least likely to receive it. On the Oscar front, the film is good enough to be mentioned in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography fronts, but if any will happen, it'll be Cinematography of Martin Ruhe getting recognized. The flick is just too "indie" for a mainstream release (creating a lot of disgruntled viewers, like the one below) AND rated R for nudity, so it'll divide audiences and voters rather than uniting them. That's not a recipe for success, but it takes nothing away from the quality of the movie. 'The American' is one of the better releases of 2010. It won't satisfy those looking for a shoot-em-up, clean cut storytelling, or a neat denouement, but if you're in the mood for something different, this is a real treat.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2011 6:42:43 AM PST
Whatsit2u says:
They should prescribe this slow-paced, pointless sleeper of a film for chronic insominacs who don't respond to heavy medication. Clooney's worst flick ever. Hardly any screenplay at all. The movie "hints" at some deeper purpose but never really develops into anything that leave moviegoers feeling as if they got their money's worth.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2011 2:16:50 PM PST
R. Taylor says:
..."The film likely won't do much damage in the Oscar race..."??? understatement if ever there was one...the only damage this movie does is to a viewer's psyche...I wouldn't be surprised to read that it's being used in Iraq to interrogate prisoners...

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 4:35:22 PM PDT
Steve says:
Enjoyed the review, although I can't quite figure why the other two comments were posted save to criticize the fact that someone liked something they didn't. It wasn't as if you posted a lukewarm review and they believed they might sway you to their side or that they even tried to make a decent argument.

I thought the pace was a refreshing break from the hyperactive bombardment style of so many Hollywood movies. It was a gorgeous, languid, and yet subtlely suspenseful movie. I'm so glad I saw it on the big screen the first time because it was a real visual treat.

Thanks for your nice review.

Posted on Jun 4, 2014 10:21:14 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2014 10:25:35 AM PDT
janebbooks says:
David Mills, you were spot on in your review. Bad marketing. Martin Booth's novel which was the basis for the film was a literary success, a confessional in diary form by a butterfly collector who makes weapons for assassins.

Unfortunately, Clooney's fifth 3 star act as director, star, and co-writer, The Monuments Men, was subject to the same bad marketing. Three trailers were made...first for the expected December 2013 release as a story of a few true-life aging warriors who saved some of European stolen treasures from destruction by the Nazis in the waning days of World War II. When the release date was pushed to February of 2014, the trailer promoted the film as humor-in-the-time of war showing some sentimental side stories of the aging warriors (especially one skit by Bill Murray). When released on DVD last month, the movie trailer showed its true character...a real-world treasure hunt for stolen art and a detective story. That's the 4 star out of 5 movie I reviewed titled HOLLYWOOD NEEDS MORE MOVIES ABOUT HEROES.

Perhaps Clooney should take a fourth position for his excellent films....Marketing and Promotion.

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