The American (2010)
I first saw this a few months ago, but the recording cut short of the ending that I discovered may have been a let down (which I’ll get to later). I held out to finally see The American (2010) in full which I was quite taken with, latching on to the thriller aspects and the lack of dialogue, which is rare in Hollywood films, something that obviously hasn’t put off its star George Clooney as the worn out assassin Jack/Edward who has lost his edge. Clooney has the clout now with his production company to make whatever he wants really as he uses this to his advantage. Going to Europe adopting the film-making style that makes this little film really stand out.
After Jack/Edward kills an innocent woman who he was staying with, which comes out of nowhere, we are not catching him at his best. Deciding to go into hiding, first meeting up with his boss Pavel (Johan Leysen), who is angry with the botched killings who gives him keys to a car and a house to hide out in. He takes the car and makes off to anywhere but the chosen location, throwing out all the kit he has been given, relying solely on himself.
Staying in the quiet Italian village of Castel del Monte where under the instructions to not make any friends he does the just the opposite in the local priest Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) who can feel that Jack is carrying a heavy burden, having sinned many times. And a local prostitute Clara (Violante Placido) who forms more than a client-prostitute relationship with. Both of these see him start to open up, yet always on the edge of breaking, he is reclusive even to these two.
He decides to take on one last job that would see him free of the assassin life that has begun to eat away at him. Much like Colin Farrell‘s character Ray in In Bruges again riddled with guilt but a far worse sin of killing an innocent child. In the assassin business there is no room for mistakes as we later learn. Concentrating on the tailor-made gun for his client Mathilde (Thekla Reuten) a woman who sees this as a transaction and a job, nothing more. Jack just gets on with the job the best he can, placed into awkward positions at times. More so when he finds a gun in the purse of Clara is everyone around him set on killing him. He feels his life is on the line as we learn and feel in the short running time that constantly knee jerks the tension in this quiet country town.
Moving onto the ending as the transaction is finalised and money is being handed over I felt as the double-crossing is happening you can imagine the dramatic ending is in sight. Instead we are given a quieter finale as he basically drives to his death. Did he get his just deserves or not? I’m not sure he did, he does the job and lives by his wits in order to escape his old life. I’m left frustrated by this ending that fails to really deliver what could have happened. Was director Anton Corbijn going for man goes to the woods to die in peace like an old dog? If that’s the case it doesn’t live up to what I expected. We all know that assassins never have an easy life so why make this death so easy?
I was left with one final thought after watching the behind the scenes of doc, which made the comparison to a western, which I can see. It’s very subtle here, a lone man does ride into town with a dark past. Befriending the preacher and local prostitute, only 50 years ago the Clooney ‘part would have been played by Gregory Peck or more suitable Robert Mitchum. Making this a neo-western only by coincidence really for me, its subtly done and well too. It’s a European thriller neo-western with an American lead, which allows for a bigger audience engage with this tight film, I just feel let down an ending that should have delivered more.