George Clooney has a compelling screen presence, and although his acting range in The American is relatively limited, the appeal of his likeable personality is the main reason to watch this movie. And he is somehow likeable, even though here he is playing a hit man - who also puts together guns for others to use.
The action starts before the title credits. The scene is Sweden, and Clooney is in a remote spot with his girlfriend. They go out in the snow, but someone tries to kill him. Clooney shoots a couple of bad guys, and his cold-hearted boss tells him that he can't afford to have any friends. He.soon finishes up in a small and pretty Italian town, where - guess what? He makes friends with the local priest, and also with a prostitute called Clara. But can he trust them?
Clooney conveys the edginess of his character well, even though we never learn much about him, and who exactly he works for. Really, this is a film where the focus is on study of character, rather than plot. Its limitation is that we never really get to know enough about the character. Yet the film is so beautifully made that its weaknesses deserve, I think, to be forgiven. It's not a masterpiece, but it's lovely to look at.
The source material is a book I'm unfamiliar with, A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth. Booth died of cancer a few years ago, at the age of 59. I'm tempted to seek out the book, which may be a bit meatiert than the screenplay, even if it lacks the Italian visuals and the very attractive women who complicate Clooney's life.