Outside of the Ocean movies, George Clooney rarely chooses commercial, crowd pleasing projects to appear in. The American is no exception. Though it has all the trappings of a glossy thriller – lush foreign locale, beautiful babes and the odd chase with gunfire – it is actually a languid character piece that ends up a damp squib.
Clooney plays Jack, a hitman whom we first see with his gorgeous companion in a wintry retreat in Sweden. He is targeted by an assassin and his chief contact (Leysen) orders him to lie low in a remote Italian village until the perpetrators can be tracked down. Jack has little to do but mope around and look suspiciously upon everyone. He makes a token gesture of friendship to the local priest (Bonacelli), telling the cleric that he's a photographer, and has assignations with pretty prostitute Clara (Placido) to while away the time. He is also given the task of assembling a high-range rifle for fellow assassin Mathilde (Reuten). But his assailants manage to track down his location and he is not convinced that sexy Clara is all she appears to be. Who can he trust? And do we care?
Quite frankly, it is difficult to do so when the lead character is so remote and uninteresting. Clooney is a stalwart presence, but is simply too cold and distant to make one intrigued by his dilemma. We are never engaged by the issues he faces. Should he let go and open up his feelings to Clara, who has fallen in love with him? To do so would place her life in danger. The troubles he wrestles with provide him with existential angst, but there's precious little drama for us to be involved with, and the occasional action sequences fail to enliven the proceedings. It's a sparse tale, devoid of urgency and suspense, easy on the eye but nothing to get excited about. Merely moderate.