George Clooney hits the snooze button in Anton Corbijn's (Control) spectacularly uninteresting hit man drama, The American. You'll hear fawning literati praises about the understated character work and solemn plot, beautifully photographed with an Italian setting. But that's all conjecture, because no wide angle shots or staccato violins can make up for how incredibly bored I was throughout this film. Its just too quiet, literally. The dialogue is sparse and uneven. The American is a prime example of how form does not triumph over substance in cinema.
Clooney stars as an introspective American hit man on assignment in Italy. He's susp*cious from an earlier attack, but takes the job to ferret out his enemy. He befriends the local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and falls for a prostitute (Violante Placido), who has a striking similarity to a deceased paramour. These relationships cloud his villa life as he prepares an assassins weapon for the hit.
The American is a distinctly European film. The tone is deadpan, purposely quiet to reflect the inner turmoil of the lead character. There are no loud action scenes. The violence is an afterthought to the overall context of the story. Corbijn also uses the Italian standard for physical beauty. He places a lot of attention on Clooney's chiseled physique, but it is Violante Placido's voluptuous figure that is the most striking. She's full frontal and natural, like a Boticelli painting. I can appreciate Corbijn's artistic eye, but it doesn't make up for the sluggish pacing of the film. It's just too slow. I lost interest quickly and never regained it, although it was great to see a real woman naked on screen and not a silicon stick figure.
I had issues with the plot of The American. Because it's such a slow film, I had time to seriously think about what was happening. Clooney's character does not behave in a realistic way. Without revealing spoilers, it doesn't make sense for a killer of his caliber to knowingly partake in subterfuge. It seems to me he could have made several much smarter moves and brought everything to a head quickly. But then we wouldn't have minutes of no dialogue and winding mountain roads to ponder.
Clooney doesn't do much of anything in The American. It looks nice, but is like a paperweight sitting on your head for two hours. I can't say I'm entirely disappointed because the film has artistic merit, if little or no entertainment value. Save this one for the cafe so you can sip an espresso to stay awake.