George Clooney is a hitman hiding out in Anton Corbijn’s dark thriller.
For whatever disappointments undermined the summer of 2010, the season at least looks to end on a bit of class. The American teams George Clooney with legendary photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn in a stylish adaptation of British novelist Martin Booth’s dark thriller A Very Private Gentleman. That 1990 work won praise for its intense mood and sophisticated psychological suspense, and combined with Clooney’s always-bankable charisma and Corbijn’s flawless compositional eye the film has all the potential for a cerebral treat.
The story tropes sound familiar (and somewhat different than the novel), but we’ll trust Clooney and Corbijn to bring something new to the proceedings. Clooney plays Jack, an American hitman and weapons builder with a reputation for craftsmanlike expertise. When a violent encounter in Sweden results in a higher body count than he anticipated, Jack retreats to the south of Italy to regroup and perform one last assignment, building a rifle for a mysterious Belgian woman named Mathilde (Thekla Reuten.)
While in a remote mountain village he begins two new relationships, one with a taciturn priest (Paulo Bonacelli) who labors for his repentance and the other with a beautiful prostitute (Violante Placido). Of course, Jack’s past may be catching up with him even as he plans to leave it behind and Mathilde’s assignment draws close at hand.
The film mark’s Corbijn’s second feature effort, following the 2007 Ian Curtis biography Control. And though it seems like a lifetime ago thanks to his prolific work since, Clooney first won critical acclaim playing another weary career criminal named Jack, in 1998′s heist caper Out of Sight. (The actor may be at his best playing honorable rogues in moments of crisis: his most acclaimed work – Syriana, Michael Clayton, Up In The Air - all come from that mold.) His own Smokehouse Pictures produced the film, while British screenwriter Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later) wrote the adapted screenplay.
Early word has reportedly been mixed. Some early reviews complain that its slow pace and reserved tone may disappoint audiences looking for more of a traditional Euro-thriller along the lines of Ronin than the Day of the Jackal-esque feel hinted at by the trailer below. This preview, one of a couple now circulating the Internet, has sheer atmosphere than probably any trailer we’ve seen since last year’s The Limits of Control, itself another hitman thriller steeped in European ambience.
The American opens nationwide September 1.
- Michael Kabel