Sep

3

 The American

Directed by Anton Corbijn Reviewed by Marion DS Dreyfus

Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn and George Clooney team up for a stylish but ultimately disappointing existential assassin cat-and-mouse thriller. If that is not too abrupt a round-up of reaction to this attractive but vapid exercise.

A movie trailer is a teaser, supposed to make the viewer hungry for the main course. But the ‘sin’ of many a trailer, including particularly the one precipitating many feet into many a theatre this week, is that in a pinch, if you connect the dots well enough, the trailer is a snappy skein of scenes that essentially makes seeing the whole film unnecessary.

With bad comedy, along with not inviting reviewers at all to previews, production houses hire expert trailer-creators. In turn, all the best lines of a dud are strung up like Xmas lights for you to thrill to and marvel at. But the excerpts are often the only funny moments in the script.

With this thriller of a hit-man in scenic, rugged Italy, the scenery wins the plaudits while we follow a morose and taciturn George Clooney around empty cobblestoned streets, twisting mountain roads, and gun-making candle-lit hotel rooms. To invoke Alice B. Toklas’es intimate, Gertrude Stein: There is no there there. Less occurs here, with less exposition, than in a classic Chuck Norris. It means well, we see lots of proficient gun assembly, icy women pretend they are immune to Clooney’s charms, but…?

Another thing: With a film portentously called THE AMERICAN, that’s a fairly iconic onus. You had better ensure the film is worthy of such a big-name concept. THE AMERICAN fails to live up to the portentousness of its name. Better: THE LONELINESS OF THE SULKY ESPESSO DRINKER.

Every seat is packed, everyone glued to the goings-on. But anchoring facts are a rarity, as the script fails to spoon-feed audiences anything in the way of WHY these people are packing heat with ingenious silencers, why Italian-speaking Clooney establishes a Spitzerian liaison with a gorgeous local pross (lots of gratuitous sex that does not noticeably advance the story, should you be reading with your sex-o-meters perched on the seat-edge), who Clooney’s boss is, why men are following him as he follows them, why this portentous restaurant empties out in time-honored Bazzini-, Johnny “Walnuts”- and Godfather-style, and why no one ever answers their cell phone with a normal Hello.

Though it is not a total waste (that eye-filling scenery; that sexy so-called local talent; George Clooney’s undressed working out, the better to display his butterfly tats), the whole is for us equal to less than the sum of its parts.

Haven’t we just seen this movie, except it was raffish, funny Ashton Kutcher and ditzy Kath Heigl (THE KILLERS, 2010) making with the crosshairs? On that one, we eventually got the 411 on what was going down.


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