Anton Corbijn gives the crime film a distinctly European twist in this understated thriller (think The Day of the Jackal
). A trim George Clooney plays Jack, a hit man who relocates from Sweden to Italy after assailants try to take his life. Jack's handler (Johan Leysen) advises him not to make any friends, which proves easier said than done. Ensconced in medieval Abruzzo, the assassin passes himself off as a photographer (in Martin Booth's novel, A Very Private Gentleman, he claimed to be an illustrator), but he's actually customizing an assault rifle for Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), his female counterpart. Upon his excursions through town, Jack meets Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), who senses he has something to confess--"A priest sees everything," he explains--but Jack would prefer to share a brandy. He also befriends Clara, a prostitute (Violante Placido, perfectly comfortable with onscreen nudity). What starts out as a sexual relationship deepens as Jack's sensitive side--he has a thing for butterflies--emerges, but then the Swedes discover his hiding place, and Jack develops doubts about his lady friends, leading to a showdown that plays like a scene from an old Western, a debt Corbijn acknowledges when Jack chances upon a broadcast of Once upon a Time in the West
. If the conclusion doesn't cut as deep as the director intends, his admirable restraint throughout keeps the tension at a low boil, while Clooney tamps down his charisma to play a dogged professional with redemption on his mind. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Academy Award winner George Clooney is The American in a suspense thriller from director Anton Corbijn. After a job ends more violently than expected, Jack (Clooney) retreats to the Italian countryside and accepts one last assignment to construct a deadly weapon for a mysterious contact. But when he pursues a relationship with a beautiful local woman, he may be tempting fate by stepping out of the shadows. Jack soon finds himself in an escalating battle to escape from his secretive past in The American.