Film director Anton Corbijn spent 35 years as a photographer before he went into movies, but he has a musical sensibility, as well. He has directed music videos and designed the stage for Depeche Mode’s world tours, and his film debut was Control, the story of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
Now, his second film has arrived, and it is the work of a visual stylist more than a musician. The American is a Euro-thriller about an assassin named Jack (George Clooney) who is fleeing an attempt on his life in Sweden — the latest locale for cold and soulless mayhem — and runs in Italy for what he hopes is his final job. It’s a film in which everything is cropped: the minimal soundtrack, the minimal dialogue, the dun landscapes of the Abruzzo region, and Clooney’s hairstyle, not to mention his thin muscular body and a nearly expressionless performance that nonetheless conveys his character’s watchfulness and (this is part of the Euro-thing) his spiritual peril.
Yes, The American is one of those. Corbijn is not afraid of silence or stillness, and he frames his actors with artful care, walking straight-faced through the labyrinth of an Italian village, in quiet close-up, or sitting at the edge of the frame, at once alienated and well-armed. Jack is alert but at a remove: You learn it in the opening sequence in Sweden, when he sends his girlfriend to call the police about a sudden death and she never makes it to the phone.
The American, based on the Martin Booth novel A Very Private Gentleman, is a violent story with the pace of an art film. One imagines a Hollywood version filled with helicopters and explosions, but in the calm and empty cafes of Italian villages, the tensions come with a more refined air: Jack’s glance to the side, a knotting of his brows, and you’re on full alert.
Jack is hiding in a place of stucco homes that spill along the side of a hill, with stairways running down to a few stores and unadorned streets. “Above all, don’t make any friends,” his boss (Johan Leysen) tells him, but on the first day Jack is approached by a priest (a beautifully, hoarse performance by veteran Italian actor Paolo Bonacelli) who befriends him. The priest sees something disturbing in Jack, and his concern for his soul — an underlying theme of The American — prompts Clooney to almost smile, a major concession for a character who seems beyond joy.
He also meets Clara (the stunning Violante Placido), a prostitute with whom he develops a close relationship, the prostitutes of small Italian villages apparently having not only hearts of gold but breasts of alabaster and the kind of sexual appetites you mostly find in Italian cinema, come to think of it. She’s more than a friend; she’s also a distraction.
And Jack has a job he can’t be distracted from. As well as being a killer, he’s a skilled gunsmith — he tells people, “I’m no good with machines,” but apparently he means “I’m up to no good with machines” — and he has been contracted to make a sniper’s rifle for the mysterious Mathilde (Thekla Reuten). The scenes of Jack assembling the gun and manufacturing its silencer have the clean pleasures of craftsmanship: It’s always a privilege to watch an artist at work, even if it’s making exploding bullets. Jack seems to lose himself in these tasks; his serenity comes in the manufacture of murder, and when he tells people in the village that he’s a photographer (like Corbijn), it’s not so much a lie as a description of a man who stands away from the world and sizes it up before he shoots it.
We don’t know how Jack became what he is, how he can be so merciless and tender; he’s a character from a Western, like the Sergio Leone film shown on a restaurant TV. He is also interested in butterflies — the women in the film call him Mr. Butterfly — and the things in his world inspire a butterfly interest: beautiful women, intricate guns, survival, the machinery of his own body. Those are the matters of many a George Clooney film (his character in Ocean’s Eleven has them, as well) but in The American, they’re in a cocoon, and we’re never sure what’s going to come out.
Look out for the modern-day western from first time filmmaker, Patrick Hughes. True Blood‘s, Ryan Kwanten is the star of the movie. The release date for the film is November 5th. Click on the thumbnail to check out the new poster and read the official synopsis below:
Young police officer Shane Cooper relocates to the small country town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife Alice to start a family. But when news of a prison break sends the local law enforcement officers – led by the town’s ruling presence, Old Bill – into a panic, Shane’s first day on duty rapidly turns into a nightmare.
Enter Jimmy Conway, a convicted murderer serving life behind bars, who has returned to the isolated outpost seeking revenge. Now caught in the middle of what will become a terrifying and bloody confrontation, Shane will be forced to take the law into his own hands if he is to survive.
A taut thriller which unfolds over the course of a single day and night, and told with explosive action and chilling violence, RED HILL is a modern-day western played out against the extraordinary landscapes of high-country Australia.
“If you’re gonna hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn’t you!”
As uttered in the original fake trailer attached to Grindhouse in 2007, that line sums up the charm of Machete as both a fleeting concept and, now, a feature-length endeavor. Robert Rodriguez has expanded that two-minute dose of goofy Mexploitation thrills into a somewhat ungainly, but mostly fun 105 minutes.
Danny Trejo, second cousin to Rodriguez, returns as the former Federale-turned-freedom fighter, a super-stoic anti-hero with a knack for taking out the bad guys and lovin’ the ladies. In the former group falls Robert De Niro as a Texas senator hellbent on keeping immigrants out of this great land of his, Jeff Fahey as his shady right-hand man, Don Johnson as a proud minuteman and Steven Seagal as the drug lord who cost Machete his family. Among the latter ranks are Michelle Rodriguez as a Che-like leader of the downtrodden, Jessica Alba as the ICE agent on her tail and Lindsay Lohan as Fahey’s incest-inviting dope of a daughter. (And that’s not even to mention the supporting appearances by Shea Whigham, Tom Savini and Cheech Marin.)
As you can see, things are a little more crowded this time around, and Rodriguez is as much a sucker for inventing icons as he’s ever been. In fact, he gets so caught up in including gun-wielding babes donning eye patches and nun’s habits, hot twin nurses, shotgun-shooting priests and henchmen inexplicably wearing wrestling masks that he almost forgets that Machete ought to be the star of his own show. When he’s in the spotlight, Trejo milks his trademark gruff charm for all its worth, deadpanning about how “Machete don’t text” and doing things with gardening tools and human intestines that they weren’t necessarily designed for.
These over-the-top moments help liven things up amid all the politics and plot that one’s left wishing that there were a few more of them, if not a few less minutes in between what’s already there. (How this managed to bloat beyond ninety minutes, I’ll never know.) Rodriguez is credited co-writer and co-director here, sharing respective responsibility with cousin Álvaro Rodríguez and cohort Ethan Maniquis in addition to cranking out a fittingly flavorful score with his band, Chingon
Beyond making sure that every explosion has an adequately cheesy polish and luring all the right friends into town, though, his presence isn’t a deeply felt one. Cheap even beyond its intentions — safety cones meant to re-direct traffic can clearly be seen in shots, the trademark “grindhouse” scratches and dirt disappear once the title appears, and many shots are lifted directly from the fake trailer itself — it’s lacking in his Desperado-era flair. Hell, even Shorts looked like more of a movie than this does
But hey, no one’s asking for much and everyone’s in on the joke: Marin as pot smoker, De Niro as taxi driver, Seagal as Mexican and so on… except for maybe Alba. Whereas Michelle Rodriguez owns her empowered persona, Alba aims for earnest sincerity and reinforces her status as primo eye candy above all else. Lohan, on the other hand, gets to lampoon her public image a bit (with the help of a body double), while Seagal proves to be the best sport in the bunch by following suit. De Niro delivers hokey campaign speeches with ease, Fahey sweats like nobody around, and as the resident redneck, Johnson is merely nibbling on his scenery in comparison to his colleagues.
Like I said: it’s a little ungainly, a bit crowded, but pretty much what you’d expect for a real movie based on a fake trailer. In a summer that’s been all about low expectations, Machete feels like the right kind of goofy high note on which to end the season.
Milla Jovovich reprises her role as the zombie-fighting heroine, Alice in the lastest entry in the Resident Evil franchise. Sure to be one of falls biggest releases, Resident Evil: Afterlife arrive in theaters, September 10th. Check out the latest Imax trailer for the film:
Will Smith is a busy man — a perusal of his current list of “in development” projects lists no less than 30(!) titles the actor is involved with, and that’s not even counting things like Men in Black III. However, the actor apparently found a few weeks in the next few years that weren’t full in his day planner and decided he needed to remedy that situation as soon as possible.
Deadline New York has the details on the performer’s latest project — a movie entitled The Legend of Cain. This Biblical tale with a twist would find Smith both producing and starring as Cain — “the original bad boy.” Of course, since this is Hollywood in 2010, don’t go in expecting something like The Ten Commandments … no, instead it’s a retelling of the classic Bible story with — wait for it — vampires!
Smith’s going to produce the flick with Overbrook Entertainment based off a script by Caleeb Pinkett and Dan Knauf. If you figured out that Caleeb is Jada Pinkett-Smith’s younger brother and that it might have helped this deal along, you too can be a Hollywood insider. No studio or director has been picked yet for the film, but Overbrook is currently coming off the success of The Karate Kid (starring Smith’s son) which has grossed over $200 million worldwide to date.
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