Lowdown: A hired killer tries to stay out of sight and mind at an Italian village.
I don’t know what your expectations of The American might be, but between this and that I was under the impression it would be another George Clooney in an action movie like The Peacemaker type affair. Wrong! While there is some action, The American is no action movie.
We meet Clooney at a cabin in the thick of the snowy outdoors, somewhere up very north, making love to a woman. But there are others about, and they don’t mean well; so Clooney does what any lover would do. He kills the infiltrators. And then kills the woman he was busy loving just moments ago. Yes, this is the type of person that he is.
Next thing we know, Clooney is ordered to lay low far away at an Italian village. All he needs to do is avoid contact with others, but he defies these orders; he gets into philosophical discussions with the local priest, for a start. More importantly, he gets busy having sex with a prostitute at the local brothel (Violante Placido). There is some steaming sex there. Between this and that, Clooney’s past catches up on him. Eventually.
Plot setup aside, there are two things worth noting about the essence of the movie that is The American. First, this one is a movie that’s poor on details.We do not know much about Clooney’s past, motives or anything. It is not the purpose of this movie to tell us (which is why I’m referring to the main character by its actor’s name). Second, this is a movie that captures a period of change in the life of its chief protagonist. Specifically, we witness the change in the relationship with the prostitute and the priest: the lust turns into love, the indifference turns into caring. Is the killer losing his killer instinct, too?
The third element (no, I did not lose count) is to do with the mechanical way The American was made. Utilising medium to long shots, medium to long cuts, and slowish camera tracking, there is that certain look and feel to The American that is certainly not the look and feel one would associate with an action movie. This is the look and feel that befits an examination of a person as that person lies low in a remote Italian village kind of a look. It has to be said, The American is very flattering to the Italian countryside, "making me want to hop on a jet" kind flattering.
The result? A brooding, poignant movie. Once again we witness the superior quality of European made movies that bother to make an effort over their generic American counterparts.
Overall: Not what I expected. Much better, actually. 3.5 out of 5 crabs.