DVD: Unstoppable (12)

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The Independent Culture

George Clooney has, essentially, three acting settings: 1) Gurn and grin like a hyperactive Cary Grant (Burn after Reading, Intolerable Cruelty); 2) Smile slyly and play cocky (One Fine Day, Ocean's Eleven); 3) Grimace an awful lot (Michael Clayton, Syriana).

In Anton Corbijn's The American, adapted from Martin Booth's A Very Private Gentleman, we have setting three, with added grimace. Gorgeous George is Jack, a dead-eyed assassin who, in the opening snow-filled scene, is besieged by Swedish hitmen. He deftly disposes of them along with, inexplicably, his entirely innocent girlfriend. He's a professional, see, and that means bumping off people who get "too close". After this barbaric act, it's pretty tricky to empathise with Clooney's sullen "anti-hero". And nothing he does subsequently merits much sympathy. Other than the fact "he's lost his edge" and he wants "out" of the killing game.

His paymaster, Pavel, suggests that Jack take to the Italian hills to hide out. Once there, the charmless, taciturn hitman makes guns, shares some wine with a local padre and visits a brothel, "befriending" Clara (Violante Placido), a preposterously beautiful prostitute and the only likeable character in the whole film.

After Corbijn's moving Control, The American, although gorgeously shot, isn't emotionally engaging. It tries to ape the stylish Alain Delon in Le Samouraï but fails miserably.