American Star


It’s great when an actor gets to reinvent themselves; you know the kind of thing, like Liam Neeson playing a broad range of roles, only to be pigeon-holed as an action star later in life.

One of the most impressive has to be Ian McShane. To anyone in the UK, he’s famous for playing TV detective Lovejoy, in the long-running BBC series. It was comfy, tea-time TV viewing that was much loved, running from 1986-1994.

Then, in 2004, he starred in HBO’s tragically short-lived Deadwood, appearing as the now iconic Al Swearengen, a deplorable rogue, who, like his surname suggested, had an impressive potty-mouth, that saw the character appear in TV Guide’s 2013 list of 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time at the impressive rank of sixth.

It’s a role that certainly spring-boarded him into the consciousness of many a US casting agent, with a number of roles in various shows and films, with possibly the most notable being the John Wick franchise as Winston, owner of the Continental.

Here he stars in a taut, European thriller as a hitman coming to the end of his career.

boom reviews American Star
That's some of the worst reverse parking i've ever seen.

Arriving in Fuerteventura, the second largest of the Canary Islands, is Wilson (McShane). It’s a trip involving more business than pleasure, as he’s there to take someone out, and not to show them a good time.

He arrives at the house, in an isolated part of the island, just to check the lay of the land. He’s interrupted by the arrival of a young woman, who uses the pool, as Wilson makes a swift exit.

Later, he finds himself in a blues bar, where the young woman just so happens to be working. There’s quite an age difference, but they appear to enjoy each other’s company. Wilson, who is soon reminded by a colleague who rocks up, that he is there for a job, and shouldn’t be distracted. But Wilson is professional, and won’t let it get to him, or so he thinks...

boom reviews American Star
Do you think he knows his arse is hanging out?!

Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego’s film is the slowest of burners. It is a film that doesn’t put much stock into dialogue, instead choosing most of the time to soak up as much of the panoramic landscape in its lens as possible.

It’s not terribly original either, featuring as it does a hitman coming to the end of his career, and facing a dilemma. There’s even interaction with a young child, at the resort, reinforcing the innocence we’re all born with. It’s clichéd, but also happens to be some of the warmest scenes in the film.

The many wide, panoramic shots suggest the cinematographer may well have some dirt on the Spanish director, as its use of an anamorphic lens, creating that veritable bend in the image when it moves, is borderline nausea-inducing at times.

But then you have McShane as the sharp-dressed killer, who quietly but assuredly goes about his business. Even when his performance is relatively restrained such as this, there’s something about the British actor, especially at this stage of his career, which is still compelling.

López-Gallego perhaps takes a few liberties along the way, with a narrative that occasionally wanders down the path of boredom, but he pulls it back well for a powerful finale, that may well be enhanced by the slow pacing preceding it.

The director and the setting certainly give it a euro art house vibe, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re prepared to certainly be eased into proceedings.

Its plot may well be on the cumbersome side, but the slow build-up and underpinning intrigue are enough to give this particular hitman flick a shot.

we give this three out of five