(In theatres, September 2010) Art-house character drama and audience-baiting hit-man thriller collide unhappily in this glacially-paced adaptation of Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman. (The re-titling of the adaptation as The American is hilarious in itself, as the book’s narrator pays painstaking attention to not revealing his precise nationality.) While the book is a study of a character who happens to be a recluse gunsmith for assassins, with little in terms of action or thrills, the film rearranges, changes or adds elements in order to pump up the suspense (even flipping the book’s character to suggest that he is primarily an assassin with a sideline in gunsmithing), a manoeuvre that doesn’t manage to overcome the loose plotting, lengthy silences and static shots of Anton Corbijn’s direction. The American feels like a very European film thanks to its contemplative mood and frequent female nudity, but it’s lessened by attempts to momentarily turn it into a genre picture when it’s most comfortable at a slower pace. George Clooney is good and slightly atypical as the lead character, but it’s Violante Placido who’s the film’s revelation in a somewhat friendlier role. The American is far better as a placid character piece than a limp action thriller: Either adjust expectations accordingly, or skip the film entirely.