Directed by Anton Corbijn
A shell of a movie, Anton Corbijn's follow-up to Control poses as a cool "existential thriller" but harbors an almost hilarious habit of clarifying its most inessential mysteries. Holed up in a picturesque Italian town, a gunsmith/man-stuck-in-the-game (George Clooney, distinguished grey) is customizing a sniper's rifle for an unconventionally fetching assassin (Thekla Reuten). "Jack" is still doing this about 45 minutes into the movie, and his attachment to gorgeous Italian prostitute Clara delays him further, to the consternation of overseer Pavel (Johan Leysen, whose sepulchral voice and scarred face are a highlight and, with Reuten, testify to someone's good eye).
But what was a potshot at Control fits The American: it's the simulated movie of a still photographer using a small bag of tricks. Beyond the stone alleys perpetually floodlit yellow by night, or the monotonous, desperately-70s lopsided widescreen compositions, the thing is clunkily put together. Does Jack have a secret? Yes, Clara observes that he does, and says so. What about his portly priest friend? Yes, Jack correctly guesses and articulates it in detail (with the worst of screenwriter Rowan Joffe's generally awful dialogue). Are there parallels between Jack's obscure solitude and that of a Western gunslinger? Yes, as indicated by the Sergio Leone film playing on a hole-in-the-wall's mounted TV, which the guy behind the counter proudly points out to Jack. Is Jack's butterfly tattoo symbolic? Now I think you're just baiting me.
The American does pull out two or three striking moments, when Corbijn's not hitting the sudden-gunshot button for made-ya-jump gotchas. But the trailer is more successful on its own overblown terms ("I don't think God's very interested in me") than the hollow film itself.
Opens September 1