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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review of The American

Memo to the movie industry: Filming a big star in a European setting still requires some semblance of a story before it can be called a movie.

At least I think that used to be the case. Now that The American was the top box office “hit” on Labor Day weekend, I’m not so sure of the above statement. Although, considering that I was counted among those box office receipts, the fact that the movie was “number one” really only proves that we thought it had the best commercials among movies we hadn’t seen yet.

It’s entirely possible that the rest of the people who helped make this movie tops at the box office also left the theater wanting to warn our fellow saps waiting in line to see this bore-fest to save their money.

There’s simply no discernible plot for the first 40 to 60 minutes of The American. I will admit that the movie actually did a good impression of a gripping movie in the first 10 minutes, but those few moments quickly evaporated into George Clooney being the brooding hit man.

Eventually it becomes clear that Clooney, whose character name I just don’t care enough about to look up, plays an assassin who is having a mid-life crisis. He’s apparently realized that killing people for a living might not have been the best choice and has made it difficult to connect with people. I say “apparently” because the audience is pretty much left to guess what the character is thinking.

We see a lot of Clooney working out and putting together high-precision guns. The first was no doubt for his female fans, and I’m guessing the guys were supposed to be enamored by the know-how with guns. Instead, it was just dull.

The character is never developed enough. For instance, he kills his lover in the beginning to cover his tracks after she sees too much about who he is. But there’s never anything to go with it. There’s just a quick comment to his boss that he killed her. It fits the cold killer persona, but if the audience is going to buy into his transformation we needed more from him – specifically on this incident. There was nothing.

Why is the life he chose suddenly bothering him? It wasn’t enough to just put his life as an assassin in front of the audience and assume we’d figure it out. Of course the average audience will get why someone might be bothered by killing for a living. But we didn’t choose that life – he did. And he’s clearly done it for quite some time. Even if the guy was turning 50 and was evaluating his life, it would have been something. It would have been weak, but it would have been better than what we got.

Even if all of the pieces are willing picked up by the audience member, and the seven minutes of action in the movie was enough to keep a conscious state going, there’s no reward. The ending is a bit cliché, and, once again, there is no real explanation for it. The audience can infer why Clooney’s character became the target, but even the possible answer left me unsatisfied.

For fans who like looking at George Clooney semi-naked, which is his basic dress code during plenty of this movie whether he’s working out or visiting his favorite prostitute, The American works. The rest of us should skip it – or at least we should have.

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