Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The American (2010)

Movies like "The American" and "Greenberg" exemplify why we still need film critics.  In looking at the customer reviews on the Blockbuster website for both films, the majority opinion is that these are slow and boring.  To which my rebuttal is, "Yes and they were supposed to be."  Slow, that is, not boring.  Though to some people anything without an explosion or car chase every two minutes is boring.  If these people had done their due diligence by reading a few critical reviews, they would have known that before renting it and complaining.

If you're reading this, then you're taking the first step towards doing that.  Good for you!  Let me say that "The American" is not a frenetic actionfest like the Bourne movies, though it is similarly part of that subgenre of films about a hired gun getting tired of the business and wanting to quit.  (Besides the Bourne movies, I could think of "The Merry Gentleman," "The Matador," "Bangkok Dangerous," and "Grosse Pointe Blank" off the top of my head that also fit into this category.)  What you get with "The American" is a slower-paced, more thoughtful variation on this topic.

When the movie begins, Jack (George Clooney) is hanging out in the wilds of Sweden in a cabin with a woman.  They go outside one morning to get some fresh air, but then some bad guys try to kill Jack.  It's not a spoiler to say that they do not succeed and the woman is killed, for which Jack feels guilty.

His contact Pavel sends him to a small town in Italy, though Jack soon takes off for an even smaller town in Italy.  There he pretends to be a photographer and makes friends of a sort with the local priest.  He also begins visiting a local prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido, who looks exceptional in the several scenes in which she is topless--so sue me for noticing!).

Eventually he takes a job to design a special sniper rifle for a woman named Matildhe, who appears each time with a different hair color.  Meanwhile, problems begin to escalate as the Swedes track Jack down in Italy and he's entangled by his feelings for Clara and dissatisfaction with his life.

There is a low-speed chase and some gun play, but probably not enough for action enthusiasts.  Something else that probably throws off the general public is that this isn't the Clooney from "Ocean's Eleven," the suave, debonair criminal.  This is more the Clooney from "Solaris," somber and brooding.  That is generally the air of the movie overall.  This and that Clara is an unabashed prostitute probably don't make it the best "date night" fodder.  But it is an interesting look at a man who is grappling with his personal demons and the bad choices he made in life.

My main complaint (other than the subtitles when people speak in Italian are all but impossible to read on a normal 27-inch television screen) is that the movie doesn't say much that's overly new.  As I said, there's a whole subgenre dedicated to this kind of character and generally "The American" plays out the same way those do:  the assassin is cracking, then there's a last job, a love interest enters the fray, some fights/chases where the assassin tries to escape those who want to make sure his retirement is very short, and then the end.  But to it's credit "The American" takes this more seriously and is more plausible than most of those other movies I mentioned.

So now you have a better idea what to expect--and knowing is half the battle.

That is all.

My score:  75/100 (3 stars)
Metacritic score:  61/100 (2.5 stars)

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