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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teenage Paparazzo



Teenage Paparazzo features a famous celebrity examining and trying to understand the phenomenon of the paparazzi through the eyes of the youngest paparazzo in Hollywood. That famous celebrity is Adrian Grenier, star of Entourage and the silver screen (including a multiple award-winning short film called Across the Hall), who takes an interest in a street-wise 14 year old blond moppet named Austin, the aforementioned teenage paparazzo. Grenier points his documentary cameras at the boy, his parents, and the men and women who make their living stalking the streets of Los Angeles looking for famous people to photograph. What results is an entertaining and savvy glimpse into celebrity and the cultural obsession with celebrity worship.

Using Austin as its subject matter, Teenage Paparazzo finds an interesting hook into the somewhat secretive cabal of the paparazzi, while also aptly questioning how a life of pounding the streets of LA at all hours of the day and night adversely affects a bright and driven teenager, as it must, despite the "thousands of dollars" Austin presumably earned for his work. Teenage Paparazzo doesn't find any new answers to why the fame and misadventures of celebrities fascinate the general public so, but perhaps this is because there aren't any new answers besides the obvious.

Teenage Paparazzo ramps up when Grenier himself takes up a camera and chases down fellow celebrities for photographs; this enables him to gain the respect and camraderie of the initially suspicious paparazzi Austin calls his peers, although getting stepped on, literally, was the price he paid. Grenier's storytelling is thoughtful, even-handed, and decidedly not negative; he chooses not to condemn Austin's parents for letting their son basically run wild on the dangerous streets of Los Angeles, allowing the viewer to decide for themselves how appropriate their parenting is. Grenier also makes clear Austin's household is loving and supportive, though highly unorthodox, and there's a great deal of admiration expressed for Austin's hustle and initiative.

Teenage Paparazzo widens its scope in its second half as it grapples with the cultural demand for celebrity worship via magazines like US Weekly. (There's a big laugh when Grenier is caught by paparazzi buying cameras for his excusion as a paparazzo - "He buys cameras! He's just like us!"). As a star of his magnitude, Grenier also able to round up and procure plenty of face time with many of the paparazzi's favorite usual suspects, including Lindsay Lohan, Eva Longoria, and Paris Hilton (who really should learn to not keep calling a 14 year old boy "sexy"). Alternately, Jaleel "Steve Urkel" White's presence as an interviewee is a head scratcher. Grenier and Hilton have fun playing with the paparazzi, staging dates and beach excursions, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

In the end, Grenier admirably accepts responsibility for the heavy role he played in turning Austin into a celebrity himself via making Teenage Paparazzo about him (although Austin was already gaining fame over the Internet and was offered a reality show on E!). It's shocking when the documentary leaps "a year later" to find an older Austin, less shaggy, and looking a bit like a tomboy Carey Mulligan. A wiser Austin seems have grown out of the frenetic need to parasite off of the famous, and he seems to have shed the desire to become famous himself. Still, living in Los Angeles, surrounded constantly by the famous and wealthy, one has to wonder how long until he's bitten once more by that paparazzi bug. At the very least, it seems like there's room for Austin in Adrian Grenier's entourage.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Never Let Me Go



Never Let Me Go is wonderfully directed by Mark Romanek and impeccably acted by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. I hated it. A science fiction tale set from 1978-1994 and wrapped in stoic British manners and repression, Never Let Me Go opens as Mulligan narrates her life as an organ donor, bred along with many others like her in a closed society run like a private school. They exist to provide their organs at the behest of the state when they reach adulthood; after three donations, they typically reach "completion" - they die. The first section of Never Let Me Go contains some of the finest performances by child actors I've ever seen from Izzy Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell, and Charlie Rowe as the younger versions of Mulligan, Knightley, and Garfield. (This is marred a bit by the lack of resemblance between the latter two to their adult counterparts. The children for the most part even acted circles around the more famous adults.) Mulligan's ability to cry on demand is astounding: over and over, always perfect streams down her cheeks with perfect bulbs of tears dripping down. The reveal comes early what these children's destinies are, bluntly stated, as are many of the themes and feelings between the characters later on in the picture. Little bits of information are doled out that in the world of this movie, cancer has been cured as a result of these medical breakthroughs.  As they grow into adulthood still largely innocent of the world, Mulligan, Knightley and Garfield struggle not just with the physical toll being donors takes on them, but in trying to make sense of their brief, awful lives. Knightley in particular must make amends for the wrongs she has done to Mulligan in denying her love and happiness. An unintentionally but morbidly funny moment is when Knightley "completes" on the operating table; the surgeons suddenly pack up their tools and gear and hit the bricks, leaving her gaping open corpse laying there, probably for the janitor to gather up and chuck down the garbage chute. Even the evil organ harvesters in Turistas were more considerate. Together, Mulligan and Garfield attempt in vein to obtain a deferral from donation and completion because they have "true love", foolishly hoping such a "deferral" even exists. Their dilemma somewhat echos the Replicants' desire in Blade Runner to have more life. Never Let Me Go has absorbing moments but the overall effect conveyed is excruciating misery and hopelessness.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps



"Money is a bitch that never sleeps."

Set during the economic collapse of 2008, roughly the same time that Barack Obama was elected President and Sasha Grey was giving lonely rich men a girlfriend experience, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps trumpets the return of Michael Douglas as 1980's slickster Gordon Gekko, and the return of Gekko to relevance. Hawking his life story of wealth and incarceration while speaking to young Wall Street hopefuls as a means to pay the rent for his midtown high rise apartment, Douglas still oozes charm and oily promise as he plots his way into the $100,000,000 trust fund he left his daughter, the unfortunately named Winnie Gekko, played by Carey Mulligan. Mulligan is engaged to Shia LaBeouf, an up and coming, idealistic young millionaire trader. LaBeouf tries to earn Douglas' favor both to reunite Mulligan with her father and to exact revenge on Josh Brolin, the current king of Wall Street, for destroying the company LaBeouf works for. Director Oliver Stone has a lot to say about the real-life financial collapse of Wall Street and much of what he does say is on the nose (including images of dominoes falling and a final shot of a bubble floating into the sky, not bursting - what, no house of cards or Jenga tower collapsing?). The scenes of the backdoor dealings by the heads of the major Wall Street magnates purposefully echos the criminal stylings of The Godfather, right down to the presence of Eli Wallach. There's some interesting commentary on the future of investing, with the movie championing green energy and research into fusion as the way of the future. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is really an old fashioned story about payback, who wins and who loses when you play with men's lives for all-or-nothing stakes. Gekko's true motives are kept on the back burner for most of the movie until he triumphantly returns to greasy-topped billionaire form at the end, once more a made man. (Charlie Sheen cameos as Bud Fox, Gekko's ambitious protege in the original Wall Street, and we're amused but not surprised at how poorly he turned out.) With a PG-13 rating instead of its predecessor's R, Money Never Sleeps is considerably less lurid about the sex, drugs and power incredible wealth brings, but that was a story for another era. Instead, this new Wall Street features performances from Douglas, LaBeouf, and Mulligan of genuine emotional power as they resolve their familial issues. (Douglas is moving when he bares his soul to his daughter in a rare unguarded moment of vulnerability. Mulligan is a gold medal winner at turning on the waterworks and crying on demand). In the end, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps argues that greed is still good today, and even a Gekko can change his spots, just a little.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Community 2x1 - "Anthropology 101"

I watched the entire NBC comedy block of premieres and I thought overall, Community killed everything.

The third act where "Jeff Learns About Respect" and Chang does a riff on Norman Osborne/The Green Goblin* (Donald Glover waking up in Spider-Man pajamas was brilliant) was the weakest act but it was preceded by about a million comedic hand grenades. The best of which was pretty much the entire second act blowing through a Jeff/Britta relationship and wedding storyline in the worst possible manner, preceded by the nastiest French kiss makeout between two attractive people I may have ever seen. 

Not only did they blow through Jeff/Britta as a couple in one act, they did it by simultaneously demolishing the study group before putting it back together. 

There isn't enough love in this world for Alison Brie and her beautiful reaction shots. Nor is there enough of her reaction shots in this world.

Plus Betty White drank her own pee and sang a Toto song with Abed and Troy at the end.

They're back, baby! Now, we go to school!

Before the episode was the experimental Community "Twittersode" setting up the season 2 premiere.

Jeff, Abed, Troy, Britta, Annie, Shirley, Pierce, Starburns, Dean Pelton, Senior Chang and Annie's Boobs the monkey are all Tweeting between 7pm-8pm Eastern time setting up the first class of the new semester.

And it actually is funny. Read them here:​​​​BackoftheHead/​​​​greendale

This being Twitter, you have to read from the bottom up, and the Twittersode officially starts with Annie:


But there's funny stuff before that even.

* Yes, I realize now it was Gollum:

@kenjeong Thank you all for the kind comments! Good Smeagol always helps. #Gollumchang #MyPrecious 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Town



"My Sunny Days..."

The Town is an entertaining, well-made, crowd-pleasing crime thrillah, with terrific performances from a talented cast, all steeped in local Bahston colah. In his sophomore directing effort, Ben Affleck creates a Boston-based version of Heat; a story of bank robbers, the lawmen trying to catch them, and the women who fall for them. If it falls short of Heat (Michael Mann's LA-based epic) or The Departed (the Boston crime epic directed by Martin Scorsese), it's because The Town isn't so much a love letter to Boston or Boston crime but a love letter from director Ben Affleck to the actor Ben Affleck.

Affleck, who co-wrote The Town, casts himself in the lead role as the Most Noble Bank Robber in Boston. In the pulse-pounding Cambridge bank robbery that opens the picture, Affleck and his crew take bank manager Rebecca Hall hostage when they make their escape. His ticking time bomb of a best friend Jeremy Renner wants Hall rubbed out lest she is able to identify them to the FBI. Affleck, who was so gentle and compassionate with Hall during the bank robbery because deep down, he's just a really nice guy who wants to change, becomes smitten with the lovely Hall. He starts to romance her and entertain the idea of "getting out of Bahston for the first time in my life" and not be a bank robber anymore. What better way to do it than with the love of the girl whose bank he robbed?

Though her new fellah knows a lot about the punishments for larceny and felony offenders (because he says he watches "a lot of CSI and Bones", big laugh), Hall is too distracted by Affleck's broad shoulders, square cleft jaw, and "aw shucks, I'm just a Townie who breaks rahcks for a livin', I can't believe I get to be with a girl like you" demeanor to realize he's part of the crew that robbed her bank. There's a subplot about Hall noticing the Fighting Irish tattoo on the back of Jeremy Renner's neck that the movie belabors but nothing comes of it. The resolution to their relationship takes the expected turn when Hall finally realizes her new boyfriend is the very same guy who held her up at gunpoint and traumatized her. The final moments between them is a swipe right out of Heat, when Ashley Judd spoke in code on the phone to Val Kilmer, confirming she still loves him but telling him to walk away because the cops are waiting to spring a trap.

Besides being a charming local boy who's sweet to the ladies, Affleck is also a master of crime. He's the brilliant strategist of his crew, he's a master of disguise, and he's certified to drive any vehicle, including city buses. Affleck operates by Grand Theft Auto video game rules where he can enter any vehicle at any time and immediately drive it away, usually right in front of the cops staring right at him. In his closet, Affleck has uniforms from every city agency: Boston Police, MBTA, EMTs, etc. I think had a cowboy costume and an astronaut suit in there too, in case he and his crew ever want to take down NASA. When not wearing uniforms illegally, Affleck favors jackets and hoodies from every local Boston sports team, laying it on real thick that he's Boston through and through ("The Sox got rocked!"). 

Affleck has a complex back story riddled with secrets. He was abandoned by his mother at the age of six, which is a funny story all the old Townies like to tell; how little Ben wandered around Charlestown looking for his missing ma when she was dead of a drug overdose. He could have been a pro hockey playah but he washed out. His father Chris Cooper is in the clink and has to "die five times before he can get out". Affleck also is the reason Jeremy Renner spent nine years in prison for killing a man; he did it to save Affleck's life. Slinking around the local bahs as a prostitute and drug mule is Blake Lively as Renner's sister. She used to be Affleck's girl and has a kid who isn't Affleck's whom Renner seems to think Affleck should help raise anyway, though Affleck disagrees. Affleck's father worked as a bank robber for the local crime lord/florist Pete Postlethwaite, who won't let Affleck walk away from this life of crime; The Town makes it very clear who the real bad guy is (not Ben).

In the traditional sense, the real hero of The Town is Jon Hamm as the FBI lawman trying to nail Affleck and his crew. Hamm creates a crime fighting action hero version of Don Draper from Mad Men, complete with a shot of him in his suit drinking whiskey in his office. (My TV bias will show as I found myself firmly rooting for Hamm and his partner Titus Welliver, the Man in Black from Lost.) Compared to knowing every last little thing about Affleck, we find out nothing about Hamm besides that he's the lead FBI agent on the case of Affleck's crew. Still, Hamm is intelligent enough in the movie to anticipate Affleck's movements and coerce Lively to turn informant for the FBI. Hamm manages to play the two women in Affleck's life against him but still comes up empty.

Hamm's great victory is taking down Jeremy Renner with a hail of gunfire on Boylston Street outside of Fenway Park, but Affleck eludes his grasp. The whole movie seems to build towards Hamm and Affleck having at it for all the marbles but this moment never materializes. We instead have to settle for Hamm's only face to face confrontation with Affleck where Affleck cooly rebuffs Hamm's intimidation attempt and turns the tables on the Feds, strutting out of the JFK building scott free. Oh, that Ben. How do you like dem apples?

Though I had no idea, even as a native Bostonian, that Charlestown is "the bank robbery capital of America", the city of Boston itself is showcased wonderfully in The Town. The physical moments of the characters make geographic sense according to how the city is laid out, which isn't often the case with movies set in Boston. Hamm, to his credit, makes no attempt at the Bahston accent, representing the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the city but don't speak like that. Almost every other actor affects the infamous local accent and Lively has a few moments where I absolutely had no idea what she was saying. I found myself reaching for a non-existent remote to turn the subtitles on during Lively's scenes. The bank robberies, especially the grand finale of taking down "the cathedral of Bahston", Fenway Park, for $3-million, are staged thrillingly.

There sure doesn't seem to be a point to being a bank robber from Charlestown. Affleck and his crew meticulously plan out their heists with sophisticated methods (torching their getaway cards, bleaching the banks' shelves to destroy DNA) and get away with hundreds of thousands of dollars, but no matter how much they steal, they still seem to be poor Townies eating and drinking in the same dive bahs in Chahlestown. We see Renner blow his money on strippers and booze. Meanwhile, noble Affleck becomes a modern day Robin Hood who gives all of his money to Hall to help the poor children of the Town have a new ice skating rink. Affleck clearly and understandably saw there was no point in robbing banks until he's incarcerated or shot dead. 

And yet, Affleck's story, by all rights, should have ended with him six feet undah at the hands of the lawman Hamm, not forlornly pining for Hall while watching the sun set over the banks of Dawson's Creek. Affleck gets a second chance at a better life, but does he deserve one? In another town, one not made by Ben for Ben, justice would have been served.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Easy A



The best and, really, the only reason to see Easy A is for Emma Stone, who delights in her first leading role. Stone plays Olive, the (rumored to be) most promiscuous girl in her school - rumors she started herself unwittingly, then later as favors to the needy, then later for modest payment usually in the form of gift cards to various chain stores, then still later to continue proving a point she no longer believes in which becomes a burden. Easy A is loosely based on "The Scarlett Letter" (the novel and the original movie, not the crappy "Demi Moore version where she takes a lot of baths"). But it also, to its detriment by drawing the direct comparisons, directly references various high school movies from the 1980's complete with footage: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Can't Buy Me Love, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Say Anything. All of which are superior to Easy A. Proving herself a bona fide leading lady, Stone is just terrific; this is mainly because she's the smartest and best written (though endearingly flawed) person of her age in the movie. The rest of the young cast don't have the chops and aren't written to be the equal of Stone in intelligence or wit, not even Aly Michalka from Hellcats as her best friend nor chipmunk-looking Amanda Bynes playing the same crazy Christian Mandy Moore played in Saved!, but not nearly as well. The adults in the audience, especially Stone's parents played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci fare much better. Their scenes with Stone are the funniest in the movie. Tucci draws the biggest laugh when he asks their young black adopted son, "Where are you from, originally?" Malcolm McDowell as the principal gets a big laugh when he declares his mission is "to keep the girls off the pole and the boys off the pipe" but he and Thomas Hayden Church as Stone's favorite teacher are underutilized when they could have contributed many more zingers. My big issue with Easy A was that it didn't really contain a lesson or message. Aside from being much funnier, Mean Girls - the gold standard of modern teen movies - directly addressed and instructed its young audience on how to treat each other and themselves. There was a genuine message. Besides "lying is bad", Easy A lacked a greater theme, unless you glean from it that the current young generation's great legacy is its inability to create anything original of value despite all of their technology at hand. (Hayden Church points this out.) Any schoolchildren thinking they can now just watch Easy A instead of reading "The Scarlett Letter" and pass a test on the novel will be sorely disappointed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D



Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D opens with a Million Milla Jovovich March on the evil Umbrella Corporation's secret underground city in Tokyo. The previous entry, Resident Evil: Extinction, left Jovovich's titular heroine Alice with awesome telekinetic powers and a battalion of similarly powered clones to do her bidding. Preceded by Milla's husky tough chick narration which starts with (cue eye rolling) "My name is Alice..." then blah blah blah, concluding with (cue eye rolling) "...they were wrong!", the army of Milla clones sieges the underground city and... manages to get themselves all killed. Though they all have earth-shattering telekinesis, only one of the clones chooses to use hers. The rest resort to guns and samurai swords against the heavily armed Umbrella soldiers, and they slaughter each other wholesale.

Meanwhile, the real Alice proves to be just as incompetent as her clones (they got it from the source). While her clones die in waves, Alice decides to hide inside the escape ship of this movie's main villain, The Worst Agent Smith Impressionist Ever, and when she springs into action she promptly... takes a syringe in the neck that depowers her back to humanity. (Alice was too powerful, it was decided by the filmmakers, so time to bring her back down to size. Also, all those powerful clones had to go, so they chose to wipe them out in the most uncreative way possible). The newly human, newly vulnerable Alice then immediately... survives a plane crash into a mountain, walking away relatively unharmed. And so it goes.

Months later, Alice somehow finagles herself a two seater prop airplane with unlimited fuel and heads to Alaska to find out what happened to her friends from Extinction. The "mystery" of Arcadia, the presumed "infection-free" safe zone introduced in Extinction, then takes Alice to zombie-polluted Los Angeles, where a bunch of stereotypes (a Handsome Black Athlete, a Hispanic Cop, an Australian Starlet, a Sleazy Movie Producer, a Gay Asian Intern, and a Mysterious "Criminal") are holed up in a prison fortress. They all want to get to Arcadia, which it turns out is a freighter on the ocean, and Alice agrees to lead them there... somehow. Meanwhile, their haven isn't so safe as some zombies have learned to burrow into the fortress. On one hand, Afterlife plays with the expected conventions of this type of movie: a massive urban assault vehicle a la Aliens that could be their salvation has no engine, forcing them to come up with a different escape route. Not as appreciated a tease was the laborious set up for a sexy Milla Jovovich shower scene that never happens because zombies attack.

Even though Milla is "human" again, she can still perform ridiculous acrobatics, toss her guns in the air in slow-motion, catch them while somersaulting, and blow zombies away with pinpoint accuracy. While Milla is the alpha lioness of this franchise, she actually gets upstaged in the hot, sexy chick department by Ali Larter. Larter, with her buff arms and whirling strawberry blonde hair, is even sexier when she slow motion poses, especially in the 3D rain as she fights off the Giant Zombie With A Giant Axehammer randomly inserted into the movie. (I suppose because as a video game movie, there has to be a Boss Battle every 30-40 minutes.)  It turns out Larter's character Claire Redfield has a brother, who turns out to be the mysterious inmate, played (naturally) by the guy from Prison Break. When the third act hits, Afterlife starts weeding down who the Important Characters are, killing off everyone who isn't Alice, Claire and Chris Redfield (though Handsome Black Athlete inexplicably survives being zombie-attacked in the tunnels under the prison).

Paul W.S. Anderson, the original auteur of the franchise and proud husband of Jovovich, returned to pen and helm Resident Evil: Afterlife. He proudly utilizes "the latest in state-of-the-art 3D technology" to proudly tell a story devoid of anything resembling logical, rational human behavior. Afterlife can hardly even be considered a story: It's just a bunch of stuff that randomly happens. There's no real beginning and no real ending; one has to search very hard to even find a point. After the requisite two hours of nonsense plot and redundant action, the movie simply decides you've had enough for now and just suddenly stops with a stomach-churning (once it dawns on you this franchise still isn't over!) set up for a fifth Resident Evil. (Though I admit, it was nice to finally find out what happened to Jill Valentine from Resident Evil: Apocalypse - even though Sienna Guillory's credit as Jill Valentine appears before the scene does when she makes her return as Umbrella's new big bad. Way to blow the surprise.)

I've subjected myself to every movie in the Resident Evil franchise and Afterlife is the worst of the lot. Please, someone finally put Alice underground where she belongs.

Monday, September 6, 2010




In my 2007 review of Grindhouse, I said, and I quote: "Call me when Machete comes out. That flick looked fucking cool". True to my word, a Machete movie was made and I went to see it. I learned I shouldn't have fucked with that Mexican. Machete is a grindhouse movie through and through, and delivers more than advertised. Way more. As in, this movie just kept going and going, well past the point of the audience caring about the convoluted, seemingly-never-ending plot about Mexican crime lord Steven Seagal, racist Senator Robert DeNiro, and conniving lobbyist Jeff Fahey working together and/or against each other to deport all illegal Mexican immigrants from the US, but not before using them as day laborers to build an electrified wall between the US and Mexico. The shameless initial joys of Machete's gory B-grade splatterfest (the best moment, foreshadowed by sexy nurses discussing that the human intestine is 60 feet long, is when Machete guts a bad guy and uses his intestines as a rope to rappel out of a window) give way to the unwieldy behemoth of a plot, with scenes heaped upon scenes of Immigration Agent Jessica Alba trying to uncover who Machete is and then joining forces with him to bring down all the pendejos. The three big name ladies in the movie each momentarily distract from the tedium of the plot by showing skin: Alba teases with a few seconds of a strategically blocked shower scene and Michelle Rodriguez showed off her toned torso. Lindsay Lohan delivers some blink-and-you-miss-it naked boobery but during a sex scene with Machete, an unfreckled body double is substituted for Lohan as obvious as the stunt men standing in for Adam West and William Shatner's fight scenes in the 1960's Batman and Star Trek TV shows. All three of those high-priced movie stars are trumped entirely by the spectacularly naked body of Mayra Leal during the berserker pre-credit action sequence (including the novel place Leal hides her cell phone). Machete never quite recovers from those initial highs (and lows). Through it all, Danny Trejo injects Machete with a grim bad assery that somehow still falls short of the iconic stature the filmmakers are going for. There is a tease at the end for two more Machete sequels. Don't call me when those come out.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The American




George Clooney is The American. The only American in the movie The American. L'Americano. He even orders cafe Americanos. Also, he kills people. Well. Sometimes called Jack, Edward, or Mr. Butterfly, The American survives an assassination attempt on his life in Sweden. Spooked, Clooney hides out in the mountains of Abruzzo, Italy (if memory serves, this is where WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino hailed from). He's told by his handler not to make friends, but Clooney, even all bottled up and solo-minded, is at his core an affable guy. His likability shines through in spite of himself as he befriends a local priest and falls for the Hottest, Nakedest Prostitute in Italy (Violante Placido). The American frustrates in that it's neither Bourne nor Bond; this is a stately, methodical thriller about an international assassin with precious few thrills to be had. Even the majestic vistas of the Italian mountains and the picturesque villages constructed there lose their impact as the audience waits for some action to wind up. Dialogue is also at a premium with only a few interesting conversations, the most compelling are between Clooney and the priest. "You are American. You think you can avoid history." Posing as a photographer - a cover story the priest pokes holes through with just a few simple queries - Clooney's existence involves wandering the cramped cobblestone back alleys of the mountain village he's staying in all alone, occasionally shadowed by would-be assassins. Breaking up that monotony is Clooney's rather interesting work: his main task is to craft and supply custom-made weapons to a fellow hitwoman (Thekla Reuten) for her next job. Watching Clooney construct explosive bullets and assemble made-to-order rifles out of spare parts is actually pretty fascinating. Unfortunately, The American's Italian vacation ends exactly as expected for a story like this. Despite his promises to his gorgeous Italian lover, he can't take her with him because The American can't go home again.