‘American Star’ Is a Worthless Thriller Without Thrills

Movies about professional assassins have an obligation to be juicier and more consistently fascinating than this.

Another in a long line of post-epidemic potboilers searching for space on empty movie marquees, American Star is a worthless thriller without thrills about a hit man named Wilson (Ian McShane) who arrives in a remote Canary Island to eighty-six a victim he knows only from a photograph concealed in the trunk of his rented car. He follows directions through a rocky desert landscape to an ugly, nondescript house with rock walls and expensive paintings, but his target isn’t home. In his place, a blonde on a motorbike arrives and jumps into the pool for a swim. Wilson thinks about joining her, but he didn’t bring any trunks, so he drives away to wait for his prey in a nearby beach hotel (in the desert?). Ian McShane tries to find a pulse, but that’s about all we ever know about Wilson, except he’s a survivor of the Falklands.

AMERICAN STAR ★ (1/4 stars)
Directed by: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Written by: Nacho Faerna
Starring: Ian McShane, Fanny Ardant, Nora Arnezeder
Running time: 106 mins.

That night, he sets his room service tray outside his door and drops in at a local bar for a couple of scotches, where the bartender turns out to be the blonde with the motorbike named Gloria (played by Nora Arnezeder, who mispronounces words the way I imagine they will sound by Martians). He drinks slowly and silently, while the camera records every dragged-out second of it (with no dialogue, yet). The bartender finishes her shift and pulls away on her bike. The next day, he drives, for no reason, to a huge hole in the ground near the ocean (huh?). This is called enjoying the scenery. In the days that follow, he gets out the ironing board and presses the only pants he owns. Sometimes, he bounces a volleyball with a child from Cardiff, Wales (huh?), who sleeps on the floor in the hotel corridor because his father snores. (Remember, this is supposed to be a thriller.) Eventually, he connects with Gloria the bartender, and she takes him sightseeing. The rest of the movie is treated like a quasi-vacation. In the waves outside the beach resort (huh?), there’s a rusty, shipwrecked warship from World War II called the American Star, which symbolizes something crucial in the screenplay by Nacho Faerna, although it is never clear what.

Although this meandering mess never reaches any deeper point, the movie does pick up the pace briefly when the assassin pays a visit to the shack where Gloria lives and meets her mother, Anne, who sells real estate and has what appears to be the only vivacious personality of anyone in Fuerteventura. Anne is played by the illustrious French icon Fanny Ardant. Although she wakes up the movie and everyone in it, it’s a small role in one small scene and hardly worth the effort.  

Under the anesthesia disguised as direction by Gonzalo López-Gallego, everyone in the movie with more than six lines finally dies in less than six seconds. I guess it claims to demonstrate how repetitive and routine the lives of professional assassins can be (yawn), but in my opinion, movies about them have an obligation to be juicier and more consistently fascinating than American Star.

‘American Star’ Is a Worthless Thriller Without Thrills