There's no doubting the calm craft and hushed reserve of Anton Corbijn's The American, a stripped-down anti-thriller that's confidently smooth and pensive - a protracted series of nominal tasks and hitman gloom that relishes in its non-conformity and European small-town demure.
It's an acquired taste, no doubt, and I would imagine most who venture into the theater this weekend will find it a dull, tasteless slog, but those who can appreciate and savor Martin Ruhe's beautiful photography, the brooding introspection and the film's commitment to the bare essentials will find a lot to like.
And yet, as incontrovertibly admirable as it is for its calculated precision and 70's art-house nostalgia, the film is ironically limited by its hoary template and pat, frivolous symbolism that leaves off a slightly bitter aftertaste. (Or, rather simply, it has one too many butterflies.)
Nevertheless, The American is a welcome throwback to the likes of Jean-Pierre Melville and Bernardo Bertolluci that provides the perfect antidote to the glossy, airy spy-thrillers of the humid summer months. [B+]