First off let's recognize the fact George Clooney is willing to take risks with movies that challenge him as an actor. Why else would he have chosen to star in Up in the Air, Men Who Stare At Goats or Syriana? Perhaps he thought his trademark charm would pull him through.
He must have thought the role of "Jack" in the new film The American would be an even bigger challenge as he wouldn't be able to flash his trademark smirk, I mean grin. In this new film he is a dour and depressed individual. Unfortunately the movie is just as dour and depressing as the character.
Jack (no last name given) is either an assassin or gun maker or both. He has taken one last job to deliver a high powered rifle to a client. While making the rifle he lives in a small Italian town. He draws the attention of a local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) who is concerned about Jack's soul. He also goes to the local house of prostitution and employs the services of Clara (Violante Placido).
Watching all of this is about as exciting as watching grass grow. It stretches out for an eternity, or at least seems that way. You hope for some glimmer of characterization or plot development but you get zero. Jack is as much an enigma at the end of the movie as he was at the start.
The entire film has a definite European flavor to it; the cinematography, the supporting cast (Clooney is the only known name), the locale, and even the musical score. Perhaps some can adapt to the rhythm of the film but many others won't.
Clooney's performance is one note. It is dark and moody. Even when Jack is with Clara he appears to be melancholy to the extreme. Clooney has lived off his charm in most of his films but Jack is the antithesis of charming. Plus Clooney doesn't just act old in this film he looks much older than usual.
The movie is rated R for profanity, violence and nudity.
To be sure some will find this performance his greatest achievement and the movie artistically satisfying. He has a large crowd of die hard fans. The majority of movie goers however will hear by word of mouth that this is Clooney at his worst and anyone who argues otherwise is hooked on "Clooney Tunes," which means they thought Leatherheads was a classic comedy.
George Clooney has made some bad movies in the past but this is a new low for him. The American is dull, drab and lifeless as is Clooney's performance. Help spread the word to avoid this movie at all costs.
I scored The American an exiled 3 out of 10.