Friday, October 1, 2010

The American (Rhoades)

The American” Finds George Clooney in Italy
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Last time I was in Italy, I was re-reading Frederick Forsyth’s “The Day of the Jackal,” a novel about a hitman entering France through the Italian Riviera. Each page I turned was set on the very spot I was traveling. It was like being in the middle of a thriller.

In “The American,” George Clooney’s new movie that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema, he’s an assassin holed up in the Italian countryside after a botched job in Sweden. This one’s based on a 1990 novel “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth, not Frederick Forsyth.

That said, in some ways it will remind you of the Colin Ferrell movie “In Bruges,” also about a hitman hiding out in a medieval Italian city. Such great scenery, it was almost a travelogue.

So’s “The American.” That’s because director Anton Corbijn (“Control”) happens to be an accomplished photographer, known for his portraits of musical groups like U2, Nirvana, and Joy Division. Here, he and cinematographer Martin Ruhe display picture-postcard perfection. The filming took place at such picturesque locales as Castel del Monte, Abruzzo, Rome, and Östersund, Sweden.

The comparison between the two films comes even closer, for Clooney’s co-star is Thekla Reuten, the Dutch actress who also appeared in “In Bruges.”

Mathilde (Reuten) is a customer who convinces Jack (Clooney) to take one last assignment, a hit that requires the construction of a special weapon.

Meanwhile, he befriends a local priest (Paolo BonaCelli) and falls into a relationship with a prostitute (Violante Placido). Always a mistake for killers on the q.t.

Despite the movie’s action-oriented poster, showing George Clooney running, this “thriller” moves along at a leisurely pace, always interesting, but not packed with car chases and explosions. Like director Sergio Leone (you’ll see “Once Upon a Time in the West” flickering on a TV set in the background of one scene in acknowledgement), Anton Corbijn believes in “telling by showing.” With the film’s strong close-ups, panoramic long shots, and choice of music, you will watch as his roots in photography and music videos emerge to control the story.

Moviegoers have had mixed expectations. One blogger moaned, “This movie is going to be awful ... George Clooney playing George Clooney in Italy!”

Another blogger chimed in, “At first I didn’t really know if I wanted to see it (George Clooney didn’t hit me as the hitman type actor) but once I saw the first trailer and saw Anton Corbijn was doing this I got really excited.”

“Me too,” said a third. “Anton Corbijn is talented like you wouldn’t believe ... and George Clooney is always awesome.”

Hey, don’t worry about the story. Enjoy the scenery. A movie ticket is cheaper than airline fare to Italy.
[from Solares Hill]

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