If youâ€™re thinking about a career as an assassin, â€śThe Americanâ€ť may give you reason to reconsider.
As George Clooney plays it in this stylish but sparse drama, a hit manâ€™s life is no bed of roses. Oh, there are beds, to be sure, but theyâ€™re barren, loveless places of fleeting physical heat to break up the long stretches of solitary cold.
Thereâ€™s stunning international scenery, as you might expect, but itâ€™s just a backdrop for one secluded hiding place followed by another. There are little cups of coffee in quaint little Euro bistros, but itâ€™s hard to savor your beverage when youâ€™re always worried about who might be coming through the door.
You donâ€™t sleep very well. A book slipping off your bedside wakes you up in a nervous, reflexive move for your gun. You avoid human contact, communicate with as few words as possible, and enter into relationships knowing that some day you might have to pull the trigger on the very person youâ€™ve let into your life.
Itâ€™s a pretty grim existence, and Clooneyâ€™s character in â€śThe Americanâ€ť is as glum as you might think a person in his line of depressing work would eventually become. Itâ€™s the world of James Bond with all the occupational hazards but none of the cool.
Laying low in an Italian villa while he completes what he vows will be his final assignment, Clooneyâ€™s â€śJackâ€ť (who also goes by â€śEdward,â€ť both of which are assumed to be assumed names) is a weary, wary gunslinger anxious to walk away after one last shootout, one in which he doesnâ€™t even have to pull the trigger. All he has to do is build the weapon. Then heâ€™ll be free, like the butterflies with which heâ€™s obsessed.
Clooney, one of Hollywoodâ€™s top leading men, doesnâ€™t exhibit here any of the big-screen gifts that have made him a box-office star---thereâ€™s no charm, no wit, no glimmer of mischief or twinkle of warmth in Jackâ€™s weary, wary, warriorâ€™s eyes. As such, â€śThe Americanâ€ť will probably disappoint a lot of his fans, as well as a lot of moviegoers in general who come expecting a typical slam-bang, R-rated summer action movie with a blast of snap, crackle and pop.
If, on the other hand, you donâ€™t mind an artsy movie thatâ€™s brave enough to test your patience with a plodding pace, empty-shell characters and barely any big-screen pulse at all, step right up. Youâ€™ve found it.
The people around Jack/Edward donâ€™t ever learn much about him, and neither do we. His guarded friendship with a local priest provides some clichĂ©d musings on morality in their brief conversations, and his wham-bam dalliance with a village prostitute awakens something in him resembling a desire deeper than sensory pleasure.
Will Jack be able to get away from it all? Will he spread his wings and fly? Will love be waiting? You find out, but the answers would mean a lot more if you ever came to know anything, and thereby really care, about the distant, detached mystery man known only to the foreigners around him as â€śthe American.â€ť