The American

THE AMERICAN is a professional assassin who specializes in gunsmithing weapons for others in the trade, and specific to individual “job” scenarios. Escaping a hit team in Sweden, he’s sent to lay low in a small hill-town in Italy. There, conversations with the local priest and trysts with a prostitute that lead to feelings beyond the physical have him reevaluate his literally dead-end profession.

Boutique 2010 suspenser with an existential crisis angle, directed by Martin Ruhe, with a screenplay by Roland Joffé, from Martin Booth’s 1990 novel “A Very Private Gentleman”. George Clooney plays the haunted, hunted death-dealer in the low-register intensity mode he employs in “serious” pictures like Syriana and Solaris. For some of his fans, that’s just fine (count us), but though the $20,000,000 production made its money back ($67,876,000 globally), the general audience reaction was frustration over the pacing and payoff. That largely seems to have been because the picture was marketed as an action thriller, which it isn’t, thus the exit-theater muttering among the less-patient who expected quips, mayhem and explosions and instead got pensive meditation and an immersive travelogue.

Those who like it appreciate the slow-reveal mood, the melancholy beauty of the locations—apart from an opening sequence shot in Sweden, the rest was filmed in and around five picturesque medieval towns in the province of Abruzzo—and the seductive but sweet charm of the stunning Violante Placido, as the working girl Clooney falls for. Extra allure is provided by the equally comely Thekla Reuten, as another pro, the killer kind.

On the down side, though things are played dead serious, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The gun-fiddling looks nifty, but it’s technically iffy. The village seems to have a population of about five. The nearby town, not much bigger, somehow has a brothel that sports hookers as gorgeous as the one played by Placido. Apart from the startling and effective opener, when the other action moments come, they’re conveniently overlooked by the locals. Apart from Placido’s winning smile (and,well, her everything else) and a hot sex scene she shares with George, the unlikely relationship is barely sketched.

Accept it as an atmospheric mood piece. Ogle the actresses. Enjoy the star. Revel in the scenery.

With Paolo Bonacelli (the chatty priest), Johan Leysen (the American’s dispassionate handler) and Irina Björklund (the unfortunate lady at the beginning). 105 minutes.

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