I know you ladies are checking out my man Jack, as played by the venerable one-note actor George Clooney – but it is a great note – and thinking that he’s handsome, and he clearly has some money, and he’s in great shape since works out all the time and after watching this movie ‘The American’ Jack also appears to know his way around a woman’s body. I mean this guy goes down on prostitutes so you could imagine the things he would do to his regular girlfriend. So you might be thinking that Jack is quite a catch. No… not really. You see Jack, an international assassin, is paranoid. Debilitatingly so. So while Jack will show you good love, take you to nice restaurants and even buy you a gift on occasion he will also put a bullet in the back of your head because, well, you never know whose out to get you.
They say, however, that it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you and after Jack has a narrow escape from some people who were out to get him in Sweden, he flees to Italy to confer with his handler Pavel (Johan Leysen) and ask why in the hell the Swedes want to kill him. After spending some time with Jack the real question he should’ve asked is ‘What took them so long?’ Pavel has no answers but does give Jack a place to hide out and a cell phone so he can reach him when he has answers. Jack doesn’t trust this guy. At all.
Jack finds his own little chateau to hide out where meets a kindly priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) who can see that Jack is a man in emotional distress. Jack doesn’t trust this guy. At all. Jack also likes the ladies which leads him to the local brothel where he hires the services of smoking hot whore Clara (Violante Placido). Jack doesn’t really trust her either but she is really, really good at what she does so he lets her in just a little bit, but eventually her motives will have to be questioned as well.
Then Pavel calls with a job, a simple job which requires Jack to make a weapon for a client (Irina Bjorklund), who, simply by chance, is also smoking. Of course Jack doesn’t trust this woman or the job but it does pay well and it does give Jack something to do in between having fun and not trusting his pretty prostitute.
But damn, somehow the Swedes have found out where he is and a man who started out as paranoid is now something else altogether because clearly, everyone is out to get him. If everyone is out to get you then who do you kill? I don’t know… everyone?
I did enjoy director Anton Corbijn’s film ‘The American’ but let me just point out that the trailer I saw at the theater while waiting to see some other movie does this film absolutely no justice. In fact it’s completely misleading, giving you the sense that you are signing on to watch some kind of balls to the wall action thriller. Oh my is that not the case. I know it’s all marketing and marketing is designed to separate us from our hard earned dollars by any means, just like I know that Tide with super power scrubbing crystals isn’t much better than that stuff I buy at the dollar store and that Proctor and Gamble spent way more money marketing the term power scrubbing crystals than actually developing power scrubbing crystals… but still.
‘The American’ is a quiet, slow moving, dramatic character study about one really paranoid bad dude and his miserable existence. Once you realize that Jack isn’t Jason Bourne, and this might take a while because the movie is languid in its pacing, I think the audience can settle in and start to appreciate this movie for what it was intended to be, and allow the tension to gradually build, as opposed to having the action artificially pressed forward. For instance, while the opening scene does include a shootout, there is no pulse pounding music or fancy cuts and pans driving this action. It just happens, and that’s how the entire movie plays out.
It is true that George Clooney plays slight variations of the same character but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as this also worked for Clint Eastwood and Gary Cooper just to name a few old time legends whose footsteps Clooney fills admirably. Clooney’s Jack doesn’t say much but we get know this character pretty well from his actions, his reactions, his routines and his approach towards those around him, and in this sense Clooney has created a very complete, very well fleshed out character. In addition to Clooney’s solid performance Corbijn has created a movie which is very stark, bare almost in its presentation which makes this movie about as close to a novel as a movie can get in that the audience is attempting to figure who is what and what is who right along with Jack’s character. Because of this particular presentation style, despite the absence of hard pounding music and fancy cuts, the last ten minutes were very tense because we are left to own devices in attempting to figure out the conspiracy, or even if there is conspiracy for that matter.
‘The American’ was a good movie, but it is a movie that requires some patience and skirting past a little bit of fraudulent marketing, but if given a chance I believe it is a rewarding movie experience.