By CRAIG YOUNKIN – September 2, 2010
They say that a great actor could make the phone book sound interesting. George Clooney is a mighty fine actor but all I could think of during “The American” is no matter how hard you try, a phone book is still a phone book. Standing as one of the slowest movies of the year, Clooney plays Jack, a contractor for assassins laying low in a small Italian town. He wants out of this isolating job but first must do one more by helping a female assassin (Thekla Reuten) secure a rifle. He also befriends an Italian priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and despite warnings to not get involved with anyone, also begins seeing a prostitute (Volante Placido). Clooney is good here but the performance doesn’t really call for much. This is a character who spends much of the movie trapped in his own loneliness, leaving George ample time to pose for the camera; exercising, working on his rifle and bullets, looking forlorn, looking over his shoulder every time he hears a sound, trying to turn bland drama into something deeper than it really is.
What sucks more is that the few scenes of dialogue come off just as hollow. The priest lectures about sin, morality, and the soul and the prostitute tries to get close to him but the scenes with both characters are brief, cliché-riddled, and go nowhere. Worst is the very technical, and surprisingly dull, exchange between Jack and the female assassin about every aspect of her new rifle. With little action (some gun shots and a car chase that could best be described as mild) and zero thrills, the movie really has no fallback but the cinematography, ¬which is beautiful¬ but doesn’t make up for a slow sleeping-pill of a movie.