September 2, 2010 -- This drama about a world-weary hit man is very familiar because it has been done to death. While it is better than the awful “Bangkok Dangerous,” starring Nicholas Cage, there are a lot of similarities between the two films. “The American,” set in Sweden and Italy and featuring a mostly unfamiliar European cast, has a certain exotic air to it. The Castel del Monte location in Italy is used to good effect in several stalking scenes. The cinematography is excellent, featuring some unusual shooting angles. There are some good action scenes and real suspense in certain other scenes, but you always know how this is going to end. The ending seems inevitable, but it is disappointing and depressing just the same.
George Clooney stars as Jack, the world-weary hit man. After an opening shootout in Sweden, he travels to Italy where a contact in Rome, Pavel (played by Johan Leysen) provides him with a car and a hideaway. Being very cautious, he picks a different hideout, in Castel del Monte, where he meets up with a friendly priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), a friendly hooker, Clara (Violante Placido) and a friendly car mechanic, Fabio (Filippo Timi). Pavel sets him up with another job, creating a custom-made weapon for another assassin, Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). He makes the weapon, a custom-made sniper's rifle with a silencer, but starts to realize he may be the target this rifle was intended for. He wants to get out of the hit man business, but it isn't easy to get out.
Jack sleeps with a gun at his side. He can't trust anyone. Assassins are after him and he has one narrow escape after another. You can see where this is going. This is not going to be a pleasant diversion. It isn't even entertaining. Clooney's minimalist performance is entirely appropriate, but that doesn't make it interesting. Except for Father Benedetto and Clara, none of the characters seemed to be virtuous. There was nobody to identify with or root for. They are all playing a sad game, which would be boring indeed if it weren't so deadly, but it comes close to being boring nonetheless. There is a rather severe plot manipulation which sets up a sort of Old West-style quick-draw gunfight. This set up makes no sense, up until the final, straightforward gunfight. Plot problems resume after the gunfight, right up to the overly melodramatic ending. Well, at least nobody commits suicide (aww, does that ruin it for you?). That would have been even more depressing. This film rates a C.
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