September 7, 2010

"The American"

Why has The American, in which superstar George Clooney plays an international hitman hiding out from Swedish assassins in Italy, been released in early September, the Idiocracy season of the Hollywood calendar?

Directed by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, it has received mostly positive reviews from American critics. They hasten to point out that The American is not an action thriller as its trailer promises. Instead, it’s a very European art film, full of abstraction, and if you find it boring, then you are a mouth-breathing American who doesn’t deserve to enjoy it.

Audiences have been less enthusiastic. Ten minutes into Clooney’s plodding, morose, obtuse performance as a depressed contract killer, coughs started ricocheting around the theatre. After twelve minutes, my son politely asked, “Dad, is it okay if I go sneak into Machete now?” When the credits rolled, half the audience sprinted out, snorting in disgust, while the other half sat rooted, sure that there had to be a post-credits stinger scene in which something cool, or at least interesting, would finally happen. ...

The American is a lowbrow art film. ... The script’s handful of truthy details are largely mistakes that anybody with access to Wikipedia could have fixed in ten minutes. The Day of the Jackal it’s not. For instance, Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster. And when is muzzle velocity denoted in miles per hour? With equal verisimilitude, George could have described the speed as “a million furlongs per fortnight.”

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below. 

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Swedish assassins

LOL. Looks like yet another instance of Sailer's Law:

http://vdare.com/sailer/050619_obsession.htm

Anonymous said...

There was a similar howler in Clooney's "Michael Clayton" where the lawyer plaintively agonized about the "85,000 documents" in a multi-billion-dollar mass-tort litigation. Yeah, only off by a magnitude of 2 or 3.

Cane Caldo said...

"Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster. And when is muzzle velocity denoted in miles per hour? With equal verisimilitude, George could have described the speed as “a million furlongs per fortnight.”"

Truly funny.

Sylvia said...

Audiences have been less enthusiastic

The film opened at No.1.

HH said...

[REQUEST FOR SPOILER]

Can anyone here explain what the significance is of the "hitvixen" calling Clooney "Mr. Butterfly"? I thought it signified something because only the prostitute knew about the tattoo, so perhaps she betrayed him, but after two hours of Clooney doing nothing, the movie appeared to run out of time to get an explanation.

Zararthustra said...

"Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster."

Actually, it's 18000 times faster. (per second vs. per hour)

l said...

Does Clooney still have the same agent who put him in Solaris?

Big bill said...

Gun facts are like hate facts: they are unworthy of checking.

Anybody who is concerned about the truth of gun facts is a gun nut.

Anybody who is concerned about the truth of hate facts is a racist.

Anonymous said...

This is a strange movie. There are so many inexplicable little things that happen in it. The women in front of me in the theater were bored out of their minds, and one of them used the word "excruciating" when it was over.

Graham Asher said...

During the making of the film someone must have said that the speed is 3065 km per hour, which is roughly right; someone else took notes, missed out a zero, and got the units wrong.

Anonymous said...


For instance, Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster. And when is muzzle velocity denoted in miles per hour? With equal verisimilitude, George could have described the speed as “a million furlongs per fortnight.”


Come on Steve, give them a break.

They are working with the big ideas, the grand sweep of things, and connecting the dots ... in their teacups.

Buddy Love said...

SAT Analogy:

George Clooney:Hollywood

Barack Obama:MSM

eumaios said...

Corbijn was the director of the memorable Depeche Mode videos. Fitting.

Ex-Chump said...

Clooney makes this kind of garbage, because like many of his Hollywood ilk, he's an incredibly rich, famous and beautiful person who desperately wants to convince his equals in these categories that's he's also an intellectual. When you score as Clooney in those categories, where else can you compete? (Steve, maybe you've speculated along these lines over the years.)

Not-so-smart people find smart subjects to be boring, so they conclude that is as long their product is boring, it must be smart.

Anonymous said...

http://vdare.com/sailer/050619_obsession.htm

movies are often about unique situations.

Your statistic that computer geeks

StephenT said...

When Superman was described as "faster than a speeding bullet," how come they didn't just give us the exact figure in MPH?

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

I had a lot of questions about the plot (like, was he the target of the handler the entire time?) but then I realized that it had hot naked chicks and good scenery and it was totally apolitical. And it had hot naked chicks.

Anonymous said...

"Directed by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, it has received mostly positive reviews from American critics. They hasten to point out that The American is not an action thriller as its trailer promises. Instead, it’s a very European art film, full of abstraction, and if you find it boring, then you are a mouth-breathing American who doesn’t deserve to enjoy it."

The reviews have been mostly positive, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes. But do you have any examples of critics looking down their noses at the American yahoos who won't enjoy it? As far as I can tell many critics are well aware that it's a problematic movie and that reasonable people might find it boring or ridiculous. For example:

“George Clooney produced and stars in this international spy thriller, which he probably thought of as existential but which registers onscreen as a giant bore.”
J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader

“But there is not quite enough there: the still waters run very cool but not terribly deep, and 'The American' falls back into a view of its protagonist that is ultimately more sentimental than unsettling or intriguing. Mr. Clooney, shorn of his mischief and charm, does not possess the resources to suggest the state of existential torment that are crucial to the logic of his character. Instead he looks bored, tired, intermittently anxious and sometimes almost excited. At least he seems to appreciate the beauty of the scenery, human and otherwise. It’s hard not to when so little else is going on.”
A.O. Scott, New York Times

“Dutch director Anton Corbijn, working from a script by Rowan Joffe, holds his film to a steady, often glacial pace… The American is remote to a fault. Like Jack, it seems in danger of turning to stone.”
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“Its emotional remoteness is contagious: If the film insists on being cryptic, why should we respond? We're trained by thrillers like these to bite our nails every time Jack sets foot in a dark alley, but even played by the sensationally likable Clooney, Jack's well-being never feels like an urgent matter… Clooney hasn't been this glum on-screen since Steven Soderbergh's ponderous 2002 remake of Solaris.”
Time.com

"The film is so studiously desolate that I think if at that sad little screening I attended someone had giggled in the wrong place, the game would have been over. It would have opened the floodgates, turned into Mystery Science Theater with the audience heckling Clooney and his God’s Loneliest Man act. But the silence held, and the movie cast a spell."
David Edelstein, New York Magazine

"Jack is supposed to be so dead-calm cool his heart needs unfreezing, but Clooney is too softly self-aware to make that believable. The American ends the summer not with a bang but an existential whimper."
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"Though 'The American' echoes classics of the genre like Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Le Samourai,' Corbijn's proclivity for holding everything at a remove combined with schematic tendencies in the script stops us from caring about this film as much as it cares about itself."
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"Given the paucity of serious adult moviemaking that shows up in American megaplexes, it’s almost ungrateful to turn up your nose when one arrives. But this isn’t that serious a movie. The moral straits of the gun and assassin business recede almost instantly. Instead, a kind of fashion instinct takes over. Corbijn likes a gorgeous long shot. He also likes women with luxurious hair and wondrous backsides. Every time Clooney shares a scene with a female, it’s not the prospect of an eruption of intercourse or gunfights you fear. It’s photo shoots."
Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

Clearly they don't all have the same contempt for the movie that you do. But they also don't seem to have the contempt for the movie-going audience that you say they do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I had been taken in by the ads. You have saved me some money, probably $1.15.

There is a hierarchy of value among films. The top films get me out of the house and into a movie theater. That costs about $20 for a single ticket when you include gas and parking. Let's call that a Class 1 movie.

A Class 2 movie is one for which I will pay five bucks to Amazon for one pay-per-view viewing.

A Class 3 movie is one that I will order from NetFlix as either a DVD or a Blu-ray disk. The FeedFliks site calculates that I currently spend $1.15 for each such movie. If I turned them around faster I could lower that rate.

A Class 4 movie is one in which I wait until it is available either on NetFlix Watch Instantly (free streaming) or Comcast Starz (also free to subscribers).

The trade-off is waiting time. I could see a movie the day it's released in a movie theater for $20or wait a couple weeks and watch it free.

Clooney is also a major figure of blog controversy over at Celebrity Heights. He's 5'9" - just about the American male average - but he obviously hungers to be taller. He envies Brad Pitt - who is only an inch or so taller and he wears funny shoes - like Stallone or Pacino.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Let's face it Steve, if you are getting your science, technology, philosophy, reality, morals, sociology, etc, from film makers, then you are a fool.

The real world is different.

Dutch Boy said...

One reviewer had fun with Clooney running off with a gorgeous prostitute he met in a sleazy little whorehouse in a small Italian town (must have been one that Berlusconi missed!).

Anonymous said...

Look, as long as we keep silencers off revolvers, I'm a happy guy!

Geoff Matthews said...

That's the most withering review I've read from you.
Honestly, I was a little curious about the film. No longer.

Steve Sailer said...

"Can anyone here explain what the significance is of the "hitvixen" calling Clooney "Mr. Butterfly"?"

It's mostly a leftover from the book being a Nabokov knockoff -- Nabokov was a butterfly expert. But in the movie, they changed the character's cover story from painter of butterflies to a landscape photographer, and totally changed the personality, too. The book's subject is well-educated, well-read, loquacious, egotistical, another Humbert Humbert / Charles Kinbote. The movie's subject is mostly good with his hands, not very educated, not very observant, depressed, etc. But a few butterfly references are left over from the book -- e.g., he is reading a butterfly guidebook at one point, he has a butterfly tattoo and a white butterfly shows up in one scene -- although they don't fit in to the rest of the movie.

Steve Wood said...

The movie is dull, but it is beautifully photographed. In particular, the camera lingers lovingly on the two principal actresses, playing the hitwoman and the prostitute. They are both gorgeous, as are the settings.

BTW, have you noticed that there are only two kinds of prostitutes in movies: used-up, skanky crack whores and beautiful, poised young women who could probably marry well if they wanted to? It seems to me that in real life there must be some sort of middle ground between the two, but I guess they're not very interesting for cinematic purposes.

Whiskey said...

The movie was #1 ... but got only $16 million over four days. That's pathetic. Indeed, outside a few big hits like Iron Man 2, the result of the Summer has been pretty mediocre, for the most part. Note that "the Grudge" five years ago got $40 million over three days, with less inflated ticket prices (tickets rose faster than inflation).

Clooney just doesn't draw if the movie doesn't have "Oceans" in the title.

Some reviewers noted that exiting film-goers gave the movie scores ranging from D- to F. The worst rating by adult men.

Kylie said...

I watched the trailer on YouTube and fell out laughing when it showed the hitwoman not knowing how to rack a slide or aim a rifle.

The brief glimpses of Clooney assembling the sniper rifle were equally hilarious. Zen and the Art of Rifle Assembly. I'm surprised there wasn't an aromatheraphy candle or serenity fountain in the background.

Geoff Matthews said...

1 mile = 1609 meters
365 * 1609 = 587285 meters
587285 meters/3600 seconds = 163.1347 meters/second

Clooney's gun shoots bullets at 163 meters/second.
BB guns shoot at about 100 meters/second, by comparison.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airsoft#Ballistics_and_speed

That's probably how fast my son's airsoft gun fires at as well.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Butterfly was uttered by the hitvixen because of the interest that Clooney's character showed in the butterfly that landed on her during the 'picnic' scene.

I believe it was an attempt at some sort of literary device but I'm too bored to look it up.

adfadfdsfsf said...

"To my mind, less isn’t more, less is a bore."

I don't know. Terminator is pretty minimalist and basic as a sci-fi action thriller, at least compared to far more elaborately produced Part II and III, but I think it works much better.

Temple of Doom had more to offer than Raiders, but I prefer Raiders.

Most rough or first cuts of movies run 3-4 hrs and then are pared down to 2 hrs or less. I don't think I want to sit through MORE of every movie.

Remake of 3:10 to Yuma certainly offers more than the original, but the original has the essentials, no more and no less and is much more effective than the messy and cluttered remake.

Bollywood movies offer everything from musical to comedy to action, but they are too much for me.

The question is not more or less. Less can be more, less can be a bore. If the process of lessening cuts out the fat, it adds 'more' to the work. If it cuts out the essentials and leaves nothing but the shell, it is indeed a bore.

That said, there's much to admire in the relatively minimalist styles of Jean-Pierre Melville and Takeshi Kitano. Hanabi almost feels like it's made of still pictures, but the overall impact of the movie is pretty devastating.

asdfasdfaf said...

I like the idea of this movie though I'm no fan of Clooney. Most movies about killers is about the action, which is natural enough since action is fun.

But I'd like to see a movie about what makes a killer tick inside. How he spends his off-time, how he prepares for the next encounter, how he hides and lays low, how he keeps in shape and maintains his skills. It must be lonely being a killer, lurking and working in the shadows. There is always something of the exile or fugitive about a professional killer. Even when he's not killing, due to his connections and background, he cannot become a normal member of society. A point of both shame and pride.

There have been interesting movies about killers on the break or operating in a low key manner. Sonantine and the original Get Carter comes to mind.

There was a reasonably thoughtful professional killer film in the 1980s called THE HIT with John Hurt. I wonder if The American is on that level. I doubt it. Generally, Clooney movies tend to be rather gutless.

dsfasdfasdf said...

"Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster."

Actually, it's 18000 times faster. (per second vs. per hour)


What does it matter? In most movies, people are faster than bullets. They seem to dodge most bullets by leaping left and right.

Anonymous said...

"Clooney proudly announces that his sniper rifle shoots bullets at 365 miles per hour. What is it? A paintball gun? The M14’s muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second is five times faster."

Actually, it's 18000 times faster. (per second vs. per hour)

--------------

A bullet that is 18000 times faster than 365 mph? You gotta be shitting me. That would be faster than the speed of light.

Paul Mendez said...

Look, as long as we keep silencers off revolvers, I'm a happy guy!

I tried very hard to repress my gun geekiness, but ultimately failed. I cannot resist pointing out that you can suppress a Nagant revolver:

http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?36263-Bramit-device-Nagant-silencer

http://guns.connect.fi/gow/nagant.html

Evil Sandmich said...

The American is full of screwing...

Cool, it's that kind of European film! Oh...huh...you mean like the housework kind, then nevermind.

Silver said...

What does it matter? In most movies, people are faster than bullets. They seem to dodge most bullets by leaping left and right.

Remo Williams