Video Verdict: ‘The American’

George Clooney plays a mysterious assassin in director Anton Corbijn’s “The American.”

It’s a slow week for home video, with only a couple major theatrical releases heading to stores, the most notable being a thriller starring George Clooney.

 

The American
3 stars (out of four)
Rated R for violence, sexual content and nudity
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

It’s interesting that director Anton Corbijn is largely known for his work as a music video director because “The American” stays away from the frenzied visual style so common in that genre. If anything, Corbijn’s film is actually too leisurely.

The focus is on a mysterious hit man named Jack (George Clooney). After discovering that he himself has become the target of assassins, Jack goes into hiding in a small Italian town where he spends his days building a custom rifle for another professional killer. He also begins a tentative relationship with a beautiful prostitute (Violante Placido) and visits frequently with the town priest (Paolo Bonacelli).

Despite being very good at his job, a fact Corbijn emphasizes through several scenes of brutal violence, Jack is clearly at one of life’s crossroads, and that’s what the film is about.

After an exciting and disturbing opening sequence, Corbijn takes his time setting the plot in motion. Because of that, the first act idles slowly, and things don’t really rev up until we’re 30 or 40 minutes in. Fortunately, the finale is thrilling, and it benefits from the fact that viewers have had plenty of time to get to know and invest in Jack.

Clooney is good in most everything he does, and his reading of this solitary man is nuanced and powerful. There’s never any doubt that Jack is dangerous and worldly, but Clooney also makes him vulnerable. That gives the movie its soul.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include deleted scenes, a making-of feature and an audio commentary by Corbijn.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Resident Evil – Afterlife”: This fourth installment of the “Resident Evil” zombie franchise again centers on Alice, a super-skilled commando who is forced to battle undead creatures created by the evil Umbrella Corporation. This time, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is hunting for human survivors in a world decimated by the undead. The film was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, and the supporting cast includes Ali Larter, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe and Wentworth Miller. It’s available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D.

“And Soon the Darkness”: This thriller directed by Marcos Efron focuses on two American girls vacationing in the Argentine countryside. When one of them goes missing, her friend tries desperately to find her. Amber Heard, Odette Yustman, Karl Urban and Adriana Barraza star.

“Jersey Shore” – Season Two: Fans of MTV’s hit reality show can relive all the drama surrounding Snooki, The Situation, Pauly D and the rest of the “Jersey Shore” cast with this four-disc set. Even better, the action is uncensored. Folks who really love their “Jersey Shore” can also buy this season as part of a two-pack that also includes season one.

“United States of Tara” – The Second Season: This quirky comedy is centered on a woman named Tara who struggles with dissociative identity disorder, and it’s a showcase for star Toni Collette. Season two focuses on Tara’s attempts to look into her past and figure out what spawned her mental troubles.

“A Charlie Brown Valentine”: This Peanuts holiday special originally aired on ABC TV, and it sees Charlie Brown trying to work up the courage to ask the Little Red-Haired Girl to a dance. In the meantime, other Peanuts characters, including Sally, Linus, Lucy and Schroeder, work through romantic issues of their own. The DVD release includes a bonus title: “Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown.”

“Bob the Builder – The Golden Hammer”: In this 60-minute animated movie featuring the Bob the Builder characters, Spud and Scrambler try to find a legendary golden hammer that they hope to give to Bob. Each DVD includes a free child’s ticket to Legoland California and the Sea Life Carlsbad Aquarium.

 

 

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com

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