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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

THE AMERICAN (2010)

George Clooney is a naive & sentimental hitman in this arty, almost abstract, thriller set in a small, scenic Italian town. A recent ‘snow job’ left three dead and Clooney on the run. Now, he needs cover and a fresh assignment. His mysterious handler sends him out to an isolated village in the Italian countryside on a weapons gig, with no lethal entanglements. The scenery is spectacular, including a local tart he falls for. But sometimes, even for an international hitman, payback comes looking for you. The inexperienced Anton Corbijn pushes the mythic elements of this modern morality fable at us, even trotting out a clip from Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST/’68. (By golly, that film also opened with three people getting shot!) But Corbijn is better at setting things up and contemplating the view then in running the ball, more Terrence Malick than Sergio Leone. The pacing never leaves the station, so to speak, and the climax is completely fudged. At times, even at the beginning, the tone grows so glossy & glacial, you get the giggles, as if Blake Edwards & Peter Sellers had taken over. Oh, if only!

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Fred Zinnemann’s THE DAY OF THE JACKAL/’73, the plus-perfect hitman narrative.

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