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Rashid Irani's Review: The American

Evidently inspired by the foreboding world of such film noirs as Point Blank and Le Samourai (both 1967), this taut though demanding thriller circles around the life of a professional hit-man.

movie reviews Updated: Oct 08, 2010 11:17 IST
Rashid Irani

The American
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido
Direction: Anton Corbijn
Rating: ***1/2

Evidently inspired by the foreboding world of such film noirs as Point Blank and Le Samourai (both 1967), this taut though demanding thriller circles around the life of a professional hit-man.

Even though he’s in practically every scene, no background information is revealed about the middle-aged protagonist. As the title indicates, the only thing one can be certain of is his nationality.

The assassin, called Jack by some, Edward by others, has an impassive face whose contours are accentuated by the carefully composed close-ups. After a botched shoot-out in a snowy Swedish wilderness, the hired gun is dispatched to an idyllic village in the Italian countryside.

There he accepts the proverbial last job, assembling a high-powered rifle for an enigmatic female client. Nothing perturbs our loner anti-hero. But despite his calm exterior, he’s falling to pieces inside, secretly yearning to quit the business before he’s forcibly ‘retired’.

Meanwhile, the death dealer strikes up a dangerous liaison with a prostitute (Placido). Their scenes are truncated by the censors who seem to have reverted to a regressive regime.

Director Corbijn (Control), a former music video maestro, maintains remarkable tension throughout. The crystalline beauty of the Italian countryside is captured courtesy cinematographer Martin Ruhe. Unfortunately, some of the Italian dialogue is not subtitled in English.

George Clooney, who alternates mainstream roles with personal passion projects such as this one, is terrific as the taciturn triggerman.

Be warned, though, that the pace is unhurried. An exercise in directorial cool, The American will certainly reward the patient viewer.