Moody European-flavored thriller finds hardened assassin Clooney hiding out in Italy and taking on a benign job to assemble a specialized rifle for a mysterious and beautiful shooter. Even though his code of ethics precludes him from making friends or having relationships (underscored pointedly in the film’s shocking opening sequence), he finds himself attracted to two unlikely locals: an old priest (Bonacelli), who has a few secrets himself; and a gorgeous prostitute (Placido).
Clooney is in every scene, which allows the filmmakers the advantage of allowing us his perspective. This is a guy with a very pessimistic view of the world, and even as goodness and light enter the picture, he can’t help himself. Case in point: the introduction of a tiny handgun in a purse casts a pall over the next few scenes which, on the surface, are quite lovely.
It’s this tricky duality that movie nails, turning seemingly random moments into one long simmering tension. Clooney is dour and serious in his most subtle role to date. The American was rapped for its glacial pacing and brooding tone, but mostly from people who saw the commercials that sold the movie as a rip-snorting shoot ‘em up.
It’s not. But aside from a couple of last-act mis-steps, it’s a beautifully-shot character drama that could have been made in the ‘70s by Francis Coppola or Terrence Malick. They should have kept the book’s title, or called it The European.
— DENNIS WILLIS