Friday, September 3, 2010

Maybe I fell asleep, but what was the point?

The American (2010)
Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Paolo Bonacelli, Johan Leysen, and Thekla Reuten
Director: Anton Corbijn
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A freelance assassin and gunsmith (Clooney) finds that he himself may be targeted by assassins. He retreats to a small Italian village where he sets about making one last weapon before retirement... and gradually starts to reconnect with humanity.

This is probably the best-looking, best-acted film that will ever be featured on this blog.

Every single shot is absolutely perfectly composed and gorgeous to look at. George Clooney is better here than even in the films he did for the Coen Brothers. The rest of the cast likewise show themselves to be masters of their craft--they have to, because much of this film is conveyed through body language and subtle facial expressions instead of dialogue. To call this movie "quiet" is almost an understatement... there is barely even soundtrack music.

But for all the good things here, it is lacking one very important element: A story.

As gorgeous as this movie is and as great as the acting was, nothing of any consequence happens in this film. Sure, there's a little action. Sure, there's a gorgeous babe who spends most of her time on screen completely naked. Sure, George Clooney makes a gun for a mysterious hit-woman. But what passes for the plot here adds up to a whole lot of nothing.

Not having a strong plot isn't necessarily a bad thing for a film that is first and foremost a character piece. But what is bad here is that it's a character piece where we never go below the surface of the characters. The actors are giving the script their all, but nothing is brought to light with those performances because the story goes nowhere. Hell, we barely learn anything about their daily lives, other than the most superficial things. (I referred to Clooney as an assassin in my summary, but I'm not convinced that's an accurate description. The preview for the film refers to him as an assassin, there are moments in the film where I believe he's an assassin--especially in the opening sequence--but he seemed more like a master gunsmith who sometimes takes to the front lines to me. Maybe I missed a key exchange?)

Maybe I nodded off during a key moment of the film; as I said, this is very quiet movie... perhaps the most quiet I've ever seen that involves gunplay and killing. I don't think that I did, because the visuals were mostly engaging. However, it's fairly early in the film that it becomes apparent that things are going nowhere... and no matter how beautiful the scenery is, it gets dull watching it when you know there's no point. Heck, even the Big Sex Scene seemed like it went on and on and on and on and on.

I really wish I liked this movie more than I do, but I think the Two Stars may be even too generous a rating. They are being awarded for the great acting and beautiful visuals, because in all other areas, this movie is a complete failure.

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