American Star

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

American Star
dir Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
scr Nacho Faerna
prd Ian McShane, Michael Elliott
with Ian McShane, Nora Arnezeder, Adam Nagaitis, Fanny Ardant, Andres Gertrudix, Oscar Coleman, Thomas Kretschmann, Sabela Aran, Whisper Biggins, Pedro Alberto Galindo, Diana Lazarova, Krasimir Krasimirov
release US 26.Jan.24,
UK 23.Feb.24
24/Spain 1h47

mcshane ardant kretschmann

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arnezeder and mcshane
Sharply observant, this offbeat crime thriller sparks curiosity for the viewer even when nothing much is happening on the screen. Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego makes the most of the Canary Islands setting, positioning characters and action in properly spectacular locations. So while the narrative is meandering and seemingly aimless, there are enjoyable flashes of comedy and drama along the way. And the film is peppered with big moments.
For his last assignment, Wilson (McShane) heads to Fuerteventura to kill a man he has never met. But his intended victim (Kretschmann) doesn't turn up. So Wilson checks into a nearby resort hotel and waits. Watching the tourists and studying Spanish, he becomes intrigued by the American Star, a shipwreck off the island's coast. On a beach, he runs into old friend Ryan (Nagaitis), a fellow hitman who is keeping an eye on him. And barmaid Gloria (Arnezeder) offers to show him around, introducing him to her mother Anne (Ardant). Then Wilson's target reappears.
Wilson's interaction with a wide range of people bristles with curiosity, such as chatting to young Max (Coleman) at the hotel and teaching him a few home truths. Wilson has avoided the ocean since serving in the British military in the Falklands, which adds to the general irony of the story. Indeed, people continually remind him that his ubiquitous black suit is all wrong for a beachy tourist destination. And the fact that everyone has a secret gives the film a subtle unpredictability, as we await the next revelation or confrontation. All of this is stunningly shot by cinematographer Jose David Montero.

McShane brings a wonderfully relaxed, wry sense of bemusement to the role that allows him to connect in a distinct way to the other actors. This makes each scene thoroughly engaging, as his inscrutable demeanour leaves everyone wondering who he really is and what he's up to. As a potential disruptor, Nagaitis adds an edgy kick to his scenes. And Arnezeder has an open-handed honesty that makes Gloria hugely likeable, although she is more connected to Wilson's job than she knows.

Even if the imagery is crisply filmed and expertly edited, everything about this movie feels coolly offhanded, especially as the story nods to the surreal. The underlying thriller element of the plot remains gurgling throughout each scene, reminding us that there is another momentous shoe waiting to drop. This relaxed narrative approach is sometimes a bit frustrating, as we wait, like Wilson does, for something to happen. And the heart-stopping ending takes no prisoners.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Jan.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall