If you’re going to imitate, you may as well imitate the best, a fact embraced by Anton Corbijn, whose The American is – in terms of tone, character and fatalism – an American rendition of Jean-Pierre Melville’s seminal existential Euro-noirs. Jack (George Clooney) is an assassin defined by a ritualistic code of conduct that, at story’s start, he’s already broken by vacationing in the snowy mountains with a lover. When his cover is blown and pursuing Swedes ambush him, Jack is forced to murder, and then – in a decision whose motivation remains ambiguous, and which will haunt him from that point forward – he shoots his paramour (Irina Björklund) in the back. A handler (Johan Leysen) facilitates Jack’s flight to a small Italian village, where he’s given a job to construct a high-powered rifle for another killer (Thekla Reuten), and despite re-embracing solitude (including shirtless push-ups and sit-ups) and his efficient craftsman profession, he also again opens his heart, this time to an Italian prostitute (Violante Placido) whose purse alarmingly contains a revolver. Whether within confining indoor spaces or set against the imposing rural Italian landscape, Jack is framed by director Corbijn at a constant remove from his environment, thereby heightening the mood of patient, chilly alienation. That atmosphere is a pose directly modeled after Le Samouraï and Le Cercle Rouge, just as Clooney’s silent, suffering performance is a direct ancestor of Alain Delon’s ultra-cool gangster turns. A distinct lack of heart-pounding suspense proves an unavoidable shortcoming for these thriller-ish proceedings. Yet aside from a leaden subplot involving Jack’s relationship with a local priest (Paolo Bonacelli), The American’s replication is reverential and spot-on, from the self-disgust and resignation of Clooney’s glances at his new lover – infused with the fear of potentially having to end their affair as he did his last – to a finale that, unlike most of Hollywood’s so-called noirs, recognizes that, in this genre, a desire to change is the same thing as a desire to die.