American Star Review – A Contemplative Introspection on the Intrincacies of Human Nature

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In my ongoing quest to explore 2024’s new releases with little to no prior knowledge, I encountered American Star. The always magnetic presence of Ian McShane (John Wick: Chapter 4) in the lead role and the intriguing premise of a ruthless killer undergoing an involuntary introspective journey captivated my interest. Character studies of this nature, if executed adeptly, have the potential to not only immerse audiences intensely but also resonate with them on a deeply personal level. Despite some issues, I truly hope this doesn’t become one of those overlooked January flicks because it’s much better than I ever anticipated.

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American Star Critique

Ian McShane in American Star
Ian McShane in American Star

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All character works inherently rely on the actor-protagonist storytelling relationship. Ian McShane’s portrayal of Wilson is an extraordinary display of subtlety that makes American Star stand out from the rest of the month’s releases. Every nuance is carefully calibrated to allow the character’s moral complexity to unfold gradually. The more Wilson patiently waits for his next target, the more McShane feels at home with the role, creating a genuinely contemplative aura that permeates the entire film.

What sets McShane’s performance apart is his deliberate restraint in displaying overt emotions. Wilson is enigmatic yet strangely relatable. American Star throws at the protagonist many moments when the purest aspects of humanity intersect with his path. It’s in these instances that McShane skillfully allows his character’s mask to crack, revealing a man engaged in profound self-reflection. The small island of Fuerteventura becomes more than just a beautiful backdrop; it becomes a metaphorical stage for Wilson’s transformative journey. A chance encounter with (somewhat of) a stranger at a bar or the innocence and naivety of a young kid are juxtaposed against Wilson’s dark past, serving as a poignant reminder of the multifaceted nature of humanity. The breathtaking natural surroundings, captured with meticulous detail, not only provide stunning visuals but also act as silent witnesses to Wilson’s internal evolution.

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American Star successfully navigates the well-trodden path of themes associated with this sort of character studies, even though it doesn’t really break any new ground. Still, it distinguishes itself through the nuanced exploration of aging, the contemplation of life choices, and the inevitability of change. Wilson’s arc reflects the universal human experience of coming to terms with the passage of time, as the title of the movie draws parallels between his growth and the fate of an old, rusty warship stranded on the island’s coast.

Nora Arnezeder (Le Musk) complements McShane’s performance with her portrayal of Gloria, a lively islander. As a free-spirited, extroverted character, Gloria serves as the emotional counterpoint to Wilson. As layers of both characters are unveiled throughout the film, their dynamics add more depth to the narrative, offering viewers a poignant glimpse into the multifaceted nature of these characters.

Ian McShane (left) in American Star
Ian McShane (left) in American Star

Director Gonzalo López-Gallego (The Hollow Point) and cinematographer José David Montero (Apollo 18) offer the necessary breathing room for Nacho Faerna’s screenplay to flourish as it should, creating a visually stunning, emotionally rich viewing experience. American Star‘s deliberate pacing, accompanied by long tracking shots that intimately follow Wilson through each scene, establishes the before-mentioned contemplative environment. Remate’s (Néboa) score further enhances this audience engagement.

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There are a couple of major issues, sadly. American Star follows quite a predictable narrative path, damaging the prolonged sequences of Wilson just going through his ‘vacations’ as any other human being by making them feel repetitive and, above all, thematically redundant. The runtime, regrettably, fails to justify all its minutes, resulting in an inconsistently captivating watch.

Another critical problem emerges in the form of an unnecessary character closely connected to Wilson, who ends up undermining the potential for a more compelling, thematically coherent third act. The conclusion, rather than culminating in a tense, impossible decision reflecting Wilson’s moral growth, opts for a shortcut towards a shock-value ending, sacrificing a more intimate climax for the sake of sensationalism. It still works, but there’s a much better ending somewhere buried by this extra character that only adds secondary information about our protagonist, which the viewers didn’t really need.

In Conclusion

American Star is a commendable self-reflection character study, bolstered by Ian McShane’s brilliantly contained performance, a thematically rich narrative, and a truly gorgeous location. The contemplative storytelling contributes to an immersive viewing experience about coming to terms with our doings in life, despite some predictability issues and an unnecessary character that robs the movie of a more fitting, emotionally impactful ending. It occasionally falters in keeping its momentum, but the crew and cast ultimately succeed in prompting introspection on the moral intricacies of human nature and the inevitability of change.

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7/10

Trinity Fusion Review Score: 7 out of 10

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Written by Manuel São Bento

Articles Published: 50

Portuguese critic with a tremendous passion for cinema, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who has stopped watching trailers since 2017.

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