The American [Renn’s Review] is being
marketed all wrong. And by that I mean it’s being marketed just
The old-school and extremely European
arty thriller is about to collect its twenty millionth dollar at the
domestic box office almost on a lark thanks to simple and elegant
artwork and a sales campaign that makes it out to be an action flick
on par with Jason Bourne and James Bond.
Which is a load of horseshit. And a
great Trojan Horse.
The American lives in a
weird world occupied largely by foreign films and some of the more
interesting movies of yesteryear. I’ve seen it compared to The
Passenger, though aside from the pacing and choice of an
American in a foreign land it doesn’t exactly ring true to me. The
bottom line is that it isn’t an action film. It’s sparsely populated
with dialogue, asks George Clooney to rely on different skills than
those that made him a leading man, and doesn’t wrap things up tidy.
It packs an ambiguous ending, or at least one that will irritate many
And it’s a terrific movie but a gut
punch to folks who buy tickets to see George Clooney kick ass.
I saw the film the day after release at
a 10pm showtime in the suburbs. The theater was half full and the
majority of the audience was populated in people in their late teens
to early twenties, young folks who were probably looking to offset
their return to school with a little action from a reliable brand.
After the film I heard their pissed-off comments about how it felt
like three hours, how they’d never get those hours of their life
back, and what a boring piece of shit it was. And I smiled.
A film like this has to market itself
with deception because if it has to be an arthouse film, it probably
doesn’t get made. George Clooney brings with him money but there’s a
fine line. There are some movies he’s made that artistically were on
the up and up but either didn’t deliver, were ignored, or were too
big to exist as a small movie. I don’t George can just make a ton of
small films that fail. I also don’t think he is able to guarantee
success on larger films. He’s leveled out. His work continues to
improve and his taste is impeccable but he’s not a titan. Just a very
good actor and filmmaker.
So The American twisted
reality a little. All movie trailers do. It’s part of the point. But,
I can see how some people would walk out of the film feeling a little
misled. The same applies to The Last Exorcism.
But where I’d normally feel cheated I’m
proud of The American.
It’s at $20,000,000 now. I bet it’s
well on its way to being considered a success based on budget,
especially considering that it’s going to play better
internationally. It’s already gotten over the hump. It’s going to
decline pretty hard next week and beyond but it’ll probably pull in
another 10-15 million before it’s all said and done. Who knows, maybe
it’ll get some sort of cachet and have legs into October? It’s not an
awards type of film but it’s close. I don’t think it’ll get any of
that heat but the bottom line is that it’s going to be a winner in
the long run. Unless it somehow cost $75,000,000 bucks to make, which
I’m sure it didn’t.
It’s a Trojan Horse of a film because
it lures all these people in. I’d say about 70% of them are going to
be disappointed. Not because the movie’s bad but because if full
disclosure was in play they wouldn’t have seen the film. It’s not their
bag. Even though there is some killing, ample nudity, and everyone’s
daily requirement of Joss Ackland lookalike priests.
There’ll be about 20% of folks who did
the due diligence and got exactly what they expected, regardless of
whether they liked it or not (though I was thrilled to have been
given a movie like this at THIS TIME in THIS YEAR). The remaining 10%
is a grab bag.
What I love is this: A small percentage
of the people that go into this film expecting an action packed romp
and don’t get that but still love the movie… who have their own
tastes shaped by this movie and movies like it, that’s the real
success of a movie like this. There are people who don’t know they
can enjoy or be enriched by a movie like this and begin
experimenting. Discovering new films that don’t fit into the mold of
what their experience with film has been.
And by no means is The American
is truly colossal artistic achievement or a subversive movie. It’s a
gateway film. It’s Art-Lite. Or if it suits you, Mainstream-Heavy.
If a handful of people get energized
about the stuff outside the margins and help contribute towards a new
generation of discerning viewers whose tastes are malleable and
evolve then the sacrifice of $10 per close-minded Robert Ludlum fan
is worth it.
Here’s hoping there are enough Trojan
Horse films dotting the multiplexes for a long, long time.
As an aside, Violante Placido has the
best breasts I’ve seen onscreen in a long time.