Sucker Punch Squad: Clooney's 'The American' Has No Punch at All

[Editor's Note: Script reviews of upcoming projects have been around for as long as there's been an Internet. Therefore it's no secret that a film can evolve into something quite different from its screenplay. Please keep in mind that this article represents a look at a particular script and not the final product.]

The good news first – there’s no pinko sucker punch in The American despite the presence of chatty progressive George Clooney in the title role. Sure, there’s a tiny bit of the hackneyed “American learns about life from the earthy foreigners who truly know how to live” cliché, but not much. Now the bad news: Not only is there no sucker punch but there’s no punch at all.

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This is a technically well-written script by Rowan Joffe that tells a story that made me want to lick my finger and stick it in a socket to jump start my soul. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, which pretty much means stop me now. Clooney plays a hit man who “wants out” and hides in an Italian village while he puts together his One Last Job. He interacts with a few locals, sips coffee, acts paranoid, and awaits the series of twists and betrayals everyone sees coming a mile away. Arrivederchi, two hours of your life.

I almost wish that the script had empowered Clooney’s Hollywood lib instincts so I could have felt something while reading the script other than the same exhausted ennui that the main character is supposed to feel. Yeah, he’s burned out and morally and emotionally bereft. We get it. I mean, we’ve only seen this movie and this character, what . . . 500 times? Except this one is hiding out in the same soul-regenerating village Italian countryside we’ve seen in, what . . . 500 other movies?



Call it Clash of the Cliches. Too bad they never actually unleash the kraken.

Let’s catalog some of the other clichés:

Car chase through village? Check.

Envelope of cash handed over at restaurant? Check.

Covert bad guy following anti-hero who could not be more obvious if he wore a neon sign reading “Hi! I’m Jeff, the disposable evil hit man coming after you!” Check.

And we get lots of scenes of Clooney’s character making a special assassination weapon of a very specific make and model that is utterly inappropriate for the detailed specifications the plot provides. I note the trailer shows him with a different, much more appropriate type of rifle. So it’s got that going for it.

The rest of the script though . . . . Clooney goes to a café. Clooney does exercises. Clooney talks on a pay phone. Clooney trades portentous, pseudo-significant insights with a priest. Yeah, you’re burned out. Yeah, you’re morally empty. Yeah, we get it. Now will somebody please freaking DO SOMETHING BESIDES SIT AROUND TALKING ABOUT THE SAD STATE OF HIS SOUL!

We never find out much the anti-hero’s back-story, which is okay because we really don’t care. His tattoo reveals that he is ex-Special Forces, because, as we know, all Green Berets leave the Army to join that giant high-priced international hit man industry we somehow never hear about in real-life. If in reality half as many people were employed as high-priced, professional assassins as Hollywood movies depict, the unemployment rate would only be 9% and the Administration would point to it as evidence the stimulus is working.

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Maybe it’s time to stop making movies about the trials and tribulations of a group of people that doesn’t really exist. Most real-life “hit men” seem to be border-line degenerates shooting somebody’s husband or another petty criminal for $2,500 bucks which they never get to spend before the police round them up. Unless I’ve missed the epidemic of politicians, international businessmen and such being eliminated by uncatchable pros, stories about the moral turmoil and emotional troubles of a secret breed of jet-setting assassins seems kind of pointless. Maybe instead we can get some equally relevant movies that dare explore the secret lives of unicorns or delve into leprechaun relationship issues.

So, the story is boring – though the script is technically proficient and evocative, meaning that I could clearly and fully visualize all of the tired, hackneyed clichés. On the plus side, other than the “You Americans don’t know how to live life” crap, it’s not political. It’ll be equally dull for adherents of every political stripe.

Also a plus, it will be directed by the talented Anton Corbijn, last seen directing the very cool Joy Division movie Control (for a sample of Corbijn’s visual style, check out its awesome trailer). Terrifyingly, a true story about a Goth band and its lead singer’s eventual suicide has more laughs than this script does, which is to say at least one.

And there’s another upside – there’s a hot Italian girl character in it and pretty much every scene she’s in has her taking off her clothes. I don’t mean just once or twice. I mean this gal makes Lindsay Lohan look like a particularly repressed Amish chick during Sunday school. So, Clooney gets to pick up a big paycheck for hanging out in the Italian countryside surrounded by hot naked girls (yeah, there’s more than one), so I can see what was in The American for him. Unfortunately, I still can’t see what’s supposed to be in it for the rest of us.

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