American Star (2024) Movie Review – Ian McShane is an assassin with time to kill

Ian McShane stars as an assassin with time to kill

Ian McShane is back in hard man mode in this crime drama about a retiring assassin named Wilson who is preparing for his final job on Fuerteventura Island.

The scene is set for an explosive confrontation as the hitman waits patiently for his target. Or at least that’s what you might assume. But this thriller from director Gonzalo López-Gallego is less an action-packed crime flick and more a reflective drama about an ageing assassin whose best days are far behind him.

When Wilson’s target fails to show up, he takes the opportunity to explore the island and meet the people who are living there. One of these is a young boy named Max who is staying in a hotel room adjacent to his. The scenes between the two of them are rather touching, allowing for Wilson’s uncharacteristic fatherly side to shine through. 

Wilson also meets a young French woman named Gloria (Nora Arnezeder) who introduces him to her mother Anne (Fanny Ardant). He and Anne get along well but there’s no chance of a romance between them. Wilson has his sights set firmly on Gloria, by which we mean he has feelings of affection for her and not a close-up view of her beauty down the barrel of a gun!

The longer Wilson spends on the island, the more he falls in love with the place. He even thinks about buying a house there. But trouble arrives when a former associate of his turns up to cancel out his plans for happiness. At this point, the movie takes a surprising turn, but we won’t reveal the plot twist here for fear of giving away spoilers. 

For long chunks of the film, nothing much happens. The first two-thirds of the narrative is focused on Wilson trying to find a sense of peace within the island’s paradise setting. He’s a war veteran with a tragic past, with memories that keep coming to the surface, despite his attempts to distance himself from them. As we watch him explore the scenic splendour of the island, the film almost resembles a travelogue. But then that twist we mentioned previously occurs and the final section of the film takes a sharp turn into thriller territory. 

McShane gives a typically strong performance as Wilson. We don’t often see him in a leading man role, so it’s great to see him take centre stage here. Wilson is a multilayered character, being both calculatingly ruthless and emotionally damaged, and McShane portrays both of these facets brilliantly.

The supporting cast is also very good, including Nora Arnezeder as Gloria, a woman who might have even more secrets than Wilson does. Arnezeder and McShane have great chemistry together, despite their difference in age. Both of their characters are looking for a better life but as the movie draws to a close, you can see the chance of this slipping away from both of them.

American Star isn’t only the name of the movie. It’s also the name of a half-sunken boat that Wilson visits during the early part of the story. The vessel, which is rusted and past its prime, is a visible metaphor for Wilson, who is also old and broken. That being said, he’s still not a man to be trifled with. We see this at the end of the movie when the identity of his target is revealed. It’s here where we see Wilson enter action-man mode with scenes that are violently enjoyable – a stark contrast to the lackadaisical pacing of the rest of the film.

If you come to American Star hoping for a thriller akin to the John Wick movies, then you’re going to be disappointed. This is a far different film, more suited to anybody who enjoys a good character piece than a gung-ho action flick. That isn’t to say there’s no gunplay in the film but this movie is less about shooting people and more a meditative drama about retirement, until the final, brutal act.


Read More: American Star – Ending Explained 

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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