Special to South Florida Times
As a movie critic, I try to keep up with what’s going on in the world of entertainment so that I can give you readers an informed opinion. I recently read in an Entertainment Weekly article that Anton Corbijn, director of The American, who is from the Netherlands, had set out to make a European film. He boasted that the only thing that is American about his film is the title — and, of course, its main actor, George Clooney.
Clooney, who is obviously the next Sean Connery with his ageless sexiness, stars as Jack, also known as Edward, who may be a mercenary or a firearms specialist or both. I’m not sure which, because screenwriter Rowan Joffe didn’t deem it necessary to make that clear. Jack has been commissioned by a mysterious -woman named Ingrid (Irina Bjorklund) to build a gun that’s a rifle, but smaller and silent. He cautiously agrees.
Joffe’s plot, based on the novel A Very Primitive Gentleman by Martin Booth, doesn’t bother with explaining who Jack is or whom he works for or why he is where he is or even the ending, for that matter. His entire plot is murky, yet loaded with religious convictions and lots of mistrust.
For Corbijn’s part, he did accomplish what he set out to do: The American is a European film to its core. But the film is way too silent. There isn’t enough drama to keep the audience interested; it feels, in fact, like Corbijn is playing his audience. Even though the film has “American” in the title, it’s completely un-American. We Americans have been spending our summer watching big films with lots of noise, action and suspense. To sit through a quiet movie just makes the audience yawn.
Don’t get me wrong. I can see an Oscar nomination in Clooney’s future. But I don’t think The American will be seeing too many nods come Oscar nomination morning. The only thing keeping the audience somewhat interested is Clooney’s performance; the plot is too weak to make the film brilliant.
Clooney’s Jack has obviously been in the mercenary business for so long that he doesn’t know whom he can trust anymore. His gaze often fixes on a person as if waiting for him or her to shoot him. He is even prepared to shoot the woman he’s falling in love with, for lack of trust, a characteristic which has been ingrained in him for countless years.
Honorable mention goes to Bjorklund for her portrayal of Ingrid. From the moment she enters the frame, there is deep distrust of her. She is obviously shady. Likewise, Pavel (played by Johan Leysen), Jack’s boss, looks like he harms people for fun. Leysen’s aura itself conveys that he’s up to no good.
Paolo Bonacelli gives off the same creepy vibe as Father Benedetto. His hard gaze makes him seem like someone to run away from, and not to, in times of crisis.
Then there is Violante Placido, who plays Clara, Jack’s new girlfriend. She is obviously quite comfortable with her body and does full frontal nudity for Clooney’s Jack. What strikes me as odd is that, even though Placido’s Clara is a prostitute, she seems more wholesome than Ingrid. Placido has a subtle innocence that doesn’t match her character’s occupation.
Speaking of Clara’s occupation, I was unsettled by the number of children in the theater who watched The American. The film is rated R, so I don’t see why people would bring their 5- to 12-year- old children.
There’s a reason for the R rating: full frontal nudity, sex and killings. Three people are shot to death within the first five minutes of the film.
Now, for a size up. Is The American a good film? Sure. I thought it was passable, albeit too quiet. Would I recommend it to others? Sure. But only if you think you can stay awake in a film with limited special effects, music and plot. If not, you’re probably better off seeing Machete. But, that film’s rated R, too. So, don’t bring your kids.
Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com.
Photo: George Clooney