Review: The American (15)***

This spare and ascetic combination of action flick and intelligent drama focuses on a weary assassin as he flees to the continent to escape hitmen on his trail. Once there, he reluctantly agrees to one last job.

Jack (George Clooney) is the travelling executioner at the heart of this occasionally energetic, frequently languorous portrait of a professional killer. It's directed by Anton Corbijn, who made his debut with the Ian Curtis biopic Control, and I suspect that the Clooney/Corbijn partnership did not necessarily lead to a shared perspective.

Part travelogue, part passion play, The American charts the lonely killer's isolation in a small Italian town where he spends free time with priests and prostitutes while creating a new weapon a la The Day of the Jackal for his mysterious female counterpart and client.

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Clooney looks lean and mean, he's humourless and serious and the film emerges as the same. There are few laughs and at times Clooney looks bored, disinterested and distant. He phones in his performance, coming to life only momentarily. That's not to say The American is po-faced and pretentious, far from it. Instead it is reminiscent of a Jim Jarmusch movie but without the requisite indie edge.

There are flashes of Luc Besson's Leon about this uneven and dour adventure but, sadly, little of the chemistry and charisma. It's (undoubtedly deliberately) Bourne-lite which ultimately makes it an art film masquerading as multiplex fare.

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