January 22nd, 2024
MOVIE: AMERICAN STAR
STARRING: IAN MCSHANE, NORA ARNEZEDER, ADAM NAGAITIS, OSCAR COLEMAN, FANNY ARDANT
DIRECTED BY: GONZALO LÓPEZ-GALLEGO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
It didn’t take long but American Star is slick, incredibly cool, and the first good movie of 2024. It’s a film where you spend time with the characters, specifically Ian McShane’s lone wolf, a cold-hearted man-in-black named Wilson. He’s a hired hitman, living his twilight years, and doing the only job he’s ever known. He has one last target before retirement. He arrives early at the location on an island of Spain. This means he has a bit of downtime before the mark arrives and there’s nothing worse for a hitman than too much time on their hands. American Star captures the dynamic of this man, his past, his present, the fears that follow him, and exactly how letting his guard down will always result in consequences.
Right off the bat, I always love films such as this, involving a small group of characters, an isolated location, and a lot of time for us to connect. What makes those elements work is the direction from Gonzalo López-Gallego and the tight writing from Nacho Faerna. The setting of Fuerteventura sets the tone, instantly creating an isolated environment, and putting the viewer in the head of Wilson with his thoughts. After discovering his target is late, he heads back to his hotel, calls his contact Ryan (Adam Nagaitis), and patience begins to settle in.
What follows is Wilson observing the luscious views of the island. He connects with a bartender named Gloria (Nora Arnezeder), sharing a love for conversation, and two lonely souls looking for a person to reach. She shows him the sites, including an abandoned ship washed up along the shore known as The American Star, while back at his hotel Wilson connects with a young boy named Max (Oscar Coleman). All within this short time, he is breaking his code, and getting close to others, and the more time passes, the more we realize that eventually, the job will get in the way.
The main factor that makes American Star work is that it draws us into Wilson’s experience. The cinematography is gorgeous from José David Montero, set against the backdrop of golden sunsets, and surrounding cool blue waters. The combination of a singular man, his isolation in an unknown place, and walking along the desert makes American Star closer to a Western than a simple story of a hitman doing the job. Films such as Unforgiven, A Fistful of Dollars, or what we saw in The Killer always fit that lone gunman trope. Luckily Ian McShane is perfect for this role. He carries the years in his demeanor, his emotions in his eyes, and approaches the character as if he’s the Grim Reaper. It’s when other characters connect, that we see the shell break off, and the build-up to him performing the job grows more intense.
American Star is a strong and condensed piece of independent cinema. It may be too slight for some and a story that has been told before but the final act delivers. It’s also a vehicle for Ian McShane that is a perfect fit. No longer is the legendary actor playing the man sitting behind the table, but instead the one carrying the gun, and he plays it as cool as John Wick ever could. American Star shines bright before fading into the sunset.
AMERICAN STAR IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND IS AVAILABLE TO RENT ON DEMAND.
Written by: Leo Brady