Thursday, September 2, 2010

The American

Don't believe the marketing being employed for George Clooney's latest noir\espionage tale, The American.  The commercials might have you believe it's a Bourne-like action adventure, and that would be disingenuous, for it's really a relentlessly slow and rather tedious arthouse exercise; one that moves at glacial speed.  I credit Focus Features, the company behind this, for trudging along, hopeful of making as much as possible in the beginning before the stench of failure gets out fully.  For a more comprehensive view of The American, I suggest staring at your fingernails growing for about an hour and a half-- it's a similar experience, but far cheaper.  Which is all a shame really because the craftsmen behind this dreary film seem quite talented-- director Anton Corbijn (whose last film was the vibrant Joy Division biopic, Control) certainly has the visual prowess; the film looks beautiful.  It's just a shame it's a hollow shell of a film, completely devoid of anything resembling a beating pulse.

Clooney plays Jack, part time assassin, full time brooder, whose fully encapsulated into a paranoid existential funk.  The action begins (and seriously the two minute opening gunfight is about the only action in the film) when Jack and his prostitute friend are enjoying the void in Sweden, when the shots are fired.  Oh my, someone's trying to kill George Clooney, or Jack, because in this case the man who looks an awful like Clooney is completely lacking in any sort of discernible charm, emotion, or much human characteristics at all.  So unfortunately the pretty Swedish prostitute must die as well-- not a spoiler-- it's the first five minutes of the film.

What follows is an hour and twenty odd minutes of meandering through a pretty quaint portion of Italy.  Jack is paranoid.  Jack assembles his gun.  Jack disassembles his gun.  Jack meets new prostitute.  Jack drives his car.  Jack is prodded on the nature of God but a kindly prodding priest.  It's all quite torturous, but it's Euro-art house torture, I suppose meaning that it feels like one might have wasted three hours of their life.  All of which leads to an unsatisfying and fairly predictable conclusion, bristling with about a minute and a half of hot-boiled action.

What looks pretty in The American, feels cold.  There's no payoff in the least.  D

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