With the Ian Curtis biopic Control, Anton Corbijn made a very smooth switch from photographer to filmmaker and shows with his follow-up movie ,The American, that this was no one-off.
The film may be a star vehicle for George Clooney ,but it also a tight and tense Zen thriller which is not afraid to maintain a slow pace.
Clooney (Edward/Mr. Butterfly) plays a hit-man and gun expert who works for a shady organisation. He is pursued by Swedes and is holed up in a sleepy Italian town.
Clooney looks immaculate throughout – Who washes and irons his clothes? How come his suit is so perfectly pressed? We need to be told.
His employers are not named but could easily be called Designer Assassins Inc. (D.A.) with a suitable advertising slogan being ‘Need someone dead? Come to D.A. and get your killing done in style’.
Fellow D.A. employee is Matilde (Theka Reuten) who also sports elegant designer wear with no apparent desire to blend into the crowd. She needs a weapon and Clooney uses his innovation and craftsmanship to produce the goods.
Having shot his ex in the opening scene Clooney is unattached and seeks relief in ladies of the night. Despite this being a sleepy medieval town, the local whores are a hot bunch. He picks Clara played by drop dead gorgeous Violante Placido . Credibility gets stretched as these two meet outside the brothel and plan to elope (although savvy viewers would know that this is never likely to happen)
The film also goes some way to explaining why organised crime is rife in some parts of Italy. Despite three killings no policeman is ever seen and the streets remain conveniently deserted.
Clooney puts on his serious face throughout and looks suitably ravaged by the burdens of sin. He befriends a local priest who suggests confession as a cure – “I don’t think God is interested in me, Father”, Cloony replies grimly.
The women look sensational but Matilde is an implausibly glam hit-girl and Clara makes an unconvincing hooker. The movie wins no prizes for realism but is to be welcomed as a thriller with a brain.
The low profile soundtrack is by German musician Herbert Grönemeyer, who also did the score for Control.
The movie plays out with a moody blues number Window of My Eyes by Dutch band Cuby & The Blizzards (“I keep looking for a reason which is not here”) which sounds a bit like Eric Burdon & The Animals.