The American Review (3.5 of 5)
The American is a little bit of a throwback film. It reminds me of 60s and 70s thrillers for some reason, but in this case the thrills are few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, this is very well done. It starts with the cinematography and what’s shown in the film is beautiful. The cinematography makes this look like a bigger film than it is. You feel like you’re actually there at times and there are some staggering shots of the European landscapes.
The story is logically written, but tries to so focus on what it’s about that you get no information on who the protagonist (Clooney) works for, who they are, who is after him and for what reason, why he kills who he kills, etc… I could go on and on with that. I guess there was a reason; to bolster the point that the film makes, but it’s not anything profound. The story is of an American hitman who after meeting a woman (the typically Hollywood beautiful hooker with a heart of gold) and apparently falling in love, he loses his will to continue doing what he’s doing. Even though I’ve seen this story MANY times elsewhere, I did think this was done well enough here.
I will say that a reason why he would make this change is inexplicable and doesn’t really fit with the remorselessness he displays in the film. I would have liked to seen something brought up from his past or character makeup that would have initiated the change in heart… Why he would gain a conscience. Does the prostitute remind him of someone or something he was before he became what he is? That sort of thing, but I didn’t get that (and I never have in a film to my memory). There is also a heavy handed butterfly motif that eventually ties the film together at the end. I guess it works for the film, but it was obvious where they were going with that.
The biggest flaw of the film is the pacing. The movie stretches each scene out as far as it possibly can whether there is something happening that will advance the story or not. The director seemed to dwell on tedium that generally would be edited out of a film. Obviously he was trying to imitate who I assume someone who the director admires: Sergio Leone. There is a moment where Clooney sits briefly alone in a cafe while ‘Once Upon A Time In The Old West’ is playing on the television behind him. I laughed at that because that’s probably Leone at his most out of control in the editing room (Jack Elam took 2 minutes to blow a fly off his lip in that one). Not the film to emulate as far as pacing goes. Great acting. Great cinematography. In serious need of a better editor (or at least a less timid one).
The flaws are outweighed by the strengths of the film and mainly (for me) because of Clooney and Violante Placido. Clooney is an actor that fits into a throwback film like this very well. He continues to look more and more like a combination of Cary Grant and Steve McQueen. And he’s a good actor. He also plays ‘mean’ well and he does that here.
Placido is… Well, she’s just smolders onscreen. At the same time she gives off a very innocent vibe despite the fact that she’s playing, you know… a whore. When Clooney insults her in the film, I felt the need to get up and defend her.
I can’t really say what the film is ultimately about without revealing the ending. There’s also a little anti-American sentiment where Americans are cast in a certain light and seen with a disdainful eye. The director casting his stones I guess and I didn’t care for that, but… This IS a film worth watching, but you’ll probably see things long before Clooney’s character does in the film. I give it 3.5 and I don’t know if that’s a little high or too low.I might watch it again. It is better than your average Hollywood drivel, but it felt just little too drawn out and predicatble. 3.5 stars.