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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Were moviegoers bamboozled into seeing George Clooney in 'The American'?

George_clooney If you haven't heard already, the George Clooney film "The American" has the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 movie at the box office this weekend despite having received an abysmal grade of D minus from CinemaScore, which tracks the reaction of rank-and-file moviegoers to the latest films. Even worse, as my colleague Ben Fritz noted in his box-office report, the film's target audience -- adults older than 25, who made up 88% of the audience, gave it an F.

I can't say I was surprised by the moviegoer reaction, since the agonizingly slow-moving film was made by Anton Corbijn, the Dutch filmmaker who was best known for directing such upbeat fare as Metallica videos and "Control," a dark portrait of Joy Division's lead singer Ian Curtis, who committed suicide at age 23. Of course, the average moviegoer didn't do an IMDB search before heading off to see "The American." They were propelled into theaters by Clooney's cool-guy image and the film's slick TV spots, which sold the picture as a taut, "Michael Clayton"-style thriller.

Of course, there's more action in the film's trailer than in virtually the entire movie. But when you're a Hollywood marketer, if you have a lemon, you make lemonade. Focus Features could have taken a more conventional approach, debuting the picture at a film festival and giving it a platform release, hoping that Clooney's star power and a few good reviews (after all, the film did get a decent 61 score from Rotten Tomatoes) might scare up some business.

But Focus must have realized from its early screenings that "The American" had little crowd-pleasing appeal. It was an art-house movie all the way. So they cooked up a batch of TV spots that made the film look like a snazzy thriller, played them incessantly on programs with older-guy appeal (like baseball games, which is where I witnessed the advertising bombardment) and gave the film a wide release, figuring they'd get as many moviegoers as possible before word spread that, in terms of Clooney films, this one had a lot more in common with "The Good German" than "Ocean's Eleven." 

Does that make Focus bad guys? Not really. They did what they had to do to get the biggest possible audience for a not especially commercial film. If anyone gets hurt, it will be Clooney, who now has another movie under his belt (joining "The Good German," "Leatherheads" and "The Men Who Stare at Goats") that severely underwhelmed his audience. They would prefer to see him be a modern-day Cary Grant, not an older version of Ryan Gosling. I don't think that makes Clooney a bad guy either. He's an actor who likes to take risks. And plenty of them have paid off, including "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Syriana" and "Up in the Air." After all, moviegoers may have thought "The American" was a total snooze, but nothing could be a bigger snooze than playing Danny Ocean your entire life.

Photo: George Clooney in the new film "The American." Credit: Giles Keyte / Focus Features/Associated Press.

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The above article is correct in that "The American" is an art house film that was released on a wide scale based on the star power of Clooney. For an art house film, it is a very good movie. Clooney's performance is excellent & if the film is taken for what it is intended, it is enjoyable. If audience expect Bond, Bourne, or lots of explosions then they (the audience) picked the wrong film.

"Of course, there's more action in the film's trailer than in virtually the entire movie" -- how can that even be possible since the action in the trailer is taken directly out of the movie itself?

I'll forgive this movie its dishonest marketing (I believe that the commercials show every single gunshot fired in the entire movie) because it's such a great film. It's slowly paced but the tension is built superbly, and I've never seen Clooney better. Similar to Lord of War and Jarhead, this movie marketed itself as an action movie when it's actually a lot more than that. But I'm okay with it, because anything that gets moviegoers to actually see good movies, even if they do so accidentally, is a good thing in my book.

I walked out on The American and saw Takers, and was highly satisfied!

I totally agree. I was completely bamboozled by this disaster of a movie. I went to see this expecting only because of the integrity of George Clooney, however it was a total borefest, incessant nudity that added nothing to the plot and an arrogance by the director who believed that he knew better than the masses on what makes a good movie. A horrible movie all the way and will die a quick death.

Moviegoers are bamboozled into seeing all sorts of crap. At least they got something slightly different here.

I've had enough of the George Clooney favoritism in the media and throughout hollywood. The man is not a movie star. George Clooney is the modern Warren Beatty. A man who is only worshipped in hollywood circles and blown up by the media as the epitome of a movie star mainly because of his connections and calculations.

George is just so beautiful. He remains that same beautiful person (with the short haircut) throughout this movie. We have no understanding of his background. We have no understanding of the guy he gets his instructions from. We have no understanding of why he wants out of the business. We are shown parts of Italy that I have never seen before (I love that). We are shown a lot of Violante Placido. I LOVE seeing a lot of Violante Placido! Aside from that, there was a total lack of help in understanding any of the characters. And then George dies at the end. What a bummer!

I don't understand your point, Patrick.

Either "The American" was misrepresented in its advertising in a sleazy, dishonest way...or it wasn't.

If it was, a better question for FOCUS is why?

Just sell the movie on its merits, which it obviously DOES have (notwithstanding the video gamer, pee-brains that need Stallone-quality intellectuality). Did FOCUS really think they could pitch it has a Bond movie and get a big weekend that would be more profitable than trying to build it with its intended audience...?

Apparently so. (And people wonder how/why movie audiences are shrinking down a sink hole with such credible studio executives out there...? Maybe James Cameron can invent 4-D cinematography and pump up ticket prices another $5.)


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