Director Anton Corbijn’s follow-up to his much-lauded debut, Control, marks a complete change of pace and mood to his biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Starring George Clooney as a burnt-out gunman-for-hire looking for a way out of his deadly profession, The American is an arty Euro thriller that favours style over excitement and character over plot.
After narrowly escaping an attempt on his life in a remote corner of Sweden, Clooney’s ‘Jack’ hides out in an Italian hilltop village while he works on his next assignment, making a customised rifle for an enigmatic assassin (Thekla Reuten from In Bruges). As he works on the job (and he seems to have an awfully long time for the task), he hangs out with the local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and with the improbably gorgeous local prostitute (Violante Placido).
In between these sacred and profane encounters, not much happens. Jack drinks a lot of coffee and does a lot of driving, and there are three episodes of abrupt violence, which director and protagonist handle with equal aplomb.
Adapted by Brighton Rock director Rowan Joffe from the novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth, The American looks fabulous – as you’d expect given the gorgeous setting in Italy’s Abruzzo and Corbijn’s former career as a photographer. But strip away the style and you’re left with a plot that doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny and a character we’ve seen on screen too many times before.
Released on Blu-ray & DVD by Universal Pictures.