Why has The American, in which superstar George Clooney plays an international hitman hiding out from Swedish assassins in Italy, been released in early September, the Idiocracy season of the Hollywood calendar?
Directed by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, it has received mostly positive reviews from American critics. They hasten to point out that The American is not an action thriller as its trailer promises. Instead, it’s a very European art film, full of abstraction, and if you find it boring, then you are a mouth-breathing American who doesn’t deserve to enjoy it.
Audiences have been less enthusiastic. Ten minutes into Clooney’s plodding, morose, obtuse performance as a depressed contract killer, coughs started ricocheting around the theatre. After twelve minutes, my son politely asked, “Dad, is it okay if I go sneak into Machete now?” When the credits rolled, half the audience sprinted out, snorting in disgust, while the other half sat rooted, sure that there had to be a post-credits stinger scene in which something cool, or at least interesting, would finally happen. ...
The American is a lowbrow art film. ... The script’s handful of truthy details are largely mistakes that anybody with access to Wikipedia could have fixed in ten minutes. The Day of the Jackal it’s not. For instance, Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster. And when is muzzle velocity denoted in miles per hour? With equal verisimilitude, George could have described the speed as “a million furlongs per fortnight.”
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