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The American (2010)

Rating: 6/10

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Jack (George Clooney) is a skilled, stoic assassin, but when things go awry at a snowy cabin in Sweden, he decides to take a break for a while in Italy. That break is interrupted when his boss calls him for one last job—and while Jack tries to start a life away from the gun, complete with a newly found priest friend and a hot hooker girlfriend named Clara, danger seems to follow his every move.

Maybe I’m not smart enough for The American. Not because it’s overly intellectual or anything, but because despite the fact that it’s shot beautifully and George Clooney puts in a great performance, there’s not a whole lot to hold on to as entertaining. The trailers and previews were selling this as some sort of Bourne Identity-like spy thriller, which it’s just not—which is fine, it doesn’t have to be, and you can’t blame the filmmakers for what the marketing department decides to do. If your plan is to make a character study, though, you need a compelling story, which even with all the right credentials, just isn’t here.

For some, Clooney’s Jack is a compelling character, and the film itself, with its sparse score and dialogue, offer an example of subdued artistry that chooses to amplify the coldness of the character. I get that, and it works in that regard. What doesn’t work is that the whole movie feels like an exercise in “How to Make a Thoughtful Film” but doesn’t bother to fill in enough of the back story to get us to care. Movies are an art form, but they are also a form of entertainment, and the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Sure, the cinematography is beautiful, but that’s not enough, nor is it enough that Clooney goes way against type and manages to ooze not a drop of charm. I will give it that the last few minutes on the road are brilliantly acted and directed, and from these moments alone the rating went up a few points, but up to that point, there’s nothing to invest in emotionally. Watching with my head, The American does a lot of things right, but it’s gotta be more than just the head for me, and for all the pretty locations and performances, there’s nothing to really sink your teeth into.

It's Got: Good Clooney (especially the ending), Spectacular Italian shots, A cameo by Once Upon a Time in the West

It Needs: More heart, more developmet, less pretension


All the pieces are here to make a good movie, but The American lacks any real entertainment value.