| This sophisticated low-key drama for mature audiences has all the trappings of a foreign art house film that happens to be primarily in English.
George Clooney (“Up in the Air” and “Syriana”) is the only recognizable face in a cast and crew almost exclusively European. Dutchman Anton Corbijn, best known as a portrait photographer, directs a script written by Englishman Rowan Joffe (son of Oscar-nominated director Roland Joffe) based on the novel “A Very Perfect Gentleman” by the late British author Martin Booth.
Jack (Clooney) is a technical weapons expert who creates and supplies tools for high-level assassinations. He dwells in the shadows and spends most of his time alone.
The movie opens in wintry Sweden with a brief prelude. A bearded Jack has become intimate with a striking blonde (Irina Bjorklund). Things go horribly awry when his identity is compromised and he leaves a blood-soaked mess with unfortunate collateral damage. Jack’s contact Pavel (Belgian Johan Leysen) tells him to lay low in a small medieval town in the Italian countryside and to avoid making friends. His next assignment is a custom fit job in which he doesn’t have to pull the trigger.
The design specifications are given to him by a mysterious woman named Mathilde (Dutch actress Thekla Reuten). Jack strikes up a friendship with Father Benedetto (Rome native Paolo Bonacelli) and engages in a torrid romance with local prostitute Clara (Italian beauty Violante Placido).
The story is told visually with very little dialogue or exposition. There is no back story for the lead character. The only clues are a tattoo of a butterfly between his shoulder blades and the insignia of Army Special Forces (Green Berets) on his right shoulder.
There are only three action sequences totaling less than 10 minutes, so the enticing teaser trailers are misleading. Clooney is on camera alone for the bulk of the quiet 105-minute running time.
You are liable to get motion sickness since so much time is spent in a car. When Jack is not motoring around the scenic countryside, he is walking through the tiny mountaintop village, doing calisthenics or assembling the made-to-order rifle.
Placido never seems to be able to keep her clothes on. She is undressing, completely nude or engaging in sex.
The movie alternates between facial close-ups and long lingering shots of the natural environment. The languid pacing of this time waster should prove to be an instant cure for insomnia.
The movie’s strengths are its striking cinematography and non-intrusive soundtrack. The visual eye candy doesn’t compensate for a disjointed story where very little happens and in the end doesn’t amount to much.
The dialogue is partially in Italian with short, easy-to-read English subtitles.
A better alternative to this snoozefest is reading the excellent suspense thrillers of Daniel Silva that revolve around master assassin Gabriel Allon, whose cover identity takes him to Italy working as an art restorer of famous paintings. His newest novel “The Rembrandt Affair,” released in July, is currently slotted in the top 10 of the New York Times Best Seller List for fiction.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"