Warning: There is absolutely no laughter during The American. Not from the characters. Not from the story. And certainly not from star George Clooney, who never has to flash his whites once during the film.
Instead what the audience is left with are questions. Who is this American named Jack (or is it Edward?) that Clooney plays? Why does he mow down three people in Sweden at the start of the flick? Why does an Italian priest suddenly befriend this stranger in town?
Instead of answers, we get scenes of Clooney doing push-ups. Then pull-ups. Then sit-ups. And was that yoga I also noticed? Some may swoon at the sight — just wait until the love-making scenes — but it does little to answer the questions about the backstory of the very private American who lands in a small Italian village.
If it's Clooney's new action flick you were hoping for, this isn't it. Devoid of car chases, zippy quips or liters of spraying blood, think of The American more as George's new brooding film.
In short, Clooney plays Jack (just Jack though sometimes called Edward), an American gun for hire, forced to lay low after a series of emotionless killings in Sweden. Jack doesn't trust anyone — not his boss (Johan Leysen), his prostitute girlfriend (Violante Placido) or even the kindly priest (Paolo Bonacelli) who only wants to help lift the obvious weight of past sins off Jack's shoulders.
"I don't think God is very interested in me, Father," Jack tells his new friend of the cloth. If that's the case, then God is the only one.
Despite its title, The American feels very European. Instead of pithy summer-movie cliches, director Anton Corbijn serves up long swaths of time devoted to shots of picturesque villas, soaring mountains, racing streams and empty cafes. Dialog, on the other hand, is in rare supply. Jack is left to propel the story one quiet cup of cafe Americano at a time.
Eventually, the coffee runs out and the pursuing Swedes discover where Jack is hiding. Only then does Jack seemingly discover he has a moral compass, forcing him to decide between the safety of solitude or choosing a greater life — and the risks and dangers that come with it.
Which does he choose? Alas, silence is golden.