American Star Review: The Cruel Predicament of an Assassin

American Star (2024).

The story of American Star, a suspenseful thriller directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego and written by Nacho Faerna, attempts to capitalize on the vague anxieties of an unfamiliar territory and the anticipation of a long-awaited hunt. Although the concept promises intrigue and excitement, the film struggles with slow pacing and unconvincing plot twists. Despite the commendable efforts from the ensemble cast led by the venerable Ian McShane, American Star just falls short of reaching the glittering heights it aspires to.

The Good:

The premise offers much to excite viewers – McShane’s character, Wilson, a seasoned assassin, travels to the beautiful island of Fuerteventura with a singular task: to kill a man whose identity remains undisclosed. However, upon reaching the picturesque yet alien environment, Wilson opts to lay low until his target makes an appearance, a decision which might cost him in the long run.

Ian McShane plays Wilson with a mysterious elegance that makes the audience wonder whether he’s a villain or an anti-hero. His seasoned portrayal commands the scenes, and we’re easily lured into his dilemma and introspections. However, as the story drags on with Wilson waiting in the foreign locale, so too does the audience’s patience. There’s a notable lack of urgency or threat which one would naturally expect in an assassin thriller.

Thomas Kretschmann, Adam Nagaitis, Fanny Ardant, and Oscar Coleman lend support but don’t fare as well due to underwritten characters who seem to wander into the story rather than actively engage with it. The sole standout is Nora Arnezeder who delivers an earnest performance and offers much-needed freshness in an otherwise bleak setting.

The writers had a tall task of delivering an engaging and thought-provoking screenplay, but Faerna’s storytelling lacks the punch required to maintain the momentum in this cat-and-mouse game. He explores Wilson’s struggle and the effect it has on him. However, these emotions are dealt with rather perfunctorily and do not necessarily contribute to plot advancement.

The Bad:

The pacing remains the movie’s biggest Achilles heel, never finding the balance between the initial slow-burn introduction and the supposedly tense final act. There is a lack of natural escalation, with events seemingly placed together more out of necessity than narrative flow.

In the direction department, Gonzalo López-Gallego presents an engaging atmospheric setting, making full use of the sunny island location to deliver scenes brimming with an almost deceiving serenity that stands in contrast with the film’s ominous theme. There is an admirable quality to the cinematography, capturing Fuerteventura in all its barren beauty.

However, López-Gallego’s direction also mirrors the lack of tension within the plot. The suspense and thrills expected from such a premise fail to materialize adequately. And though he skillfully creates moments of introspection, these do not equate to narrative engagement.


With producers Ian McShane and Michael Elliot at the helm, it’s easy to see how American Star aspires for ambitious storytelling and exploration of existential themes, making use of its alluring location and impressive cast. Yet, the result is less than thrilling and left us feeling a bit unsatisfied. The intended dramatic suspense often gives way to slow pacing and less than convincing twists.

American Star delivers some striking visuals, clever use of location, and McShane’s noteworthy performance. If you’re in the mood for an aesthetically pleasing film and can forgive its shortcomings in pacing and thrill factor, then this might be a worthy watch. Nonetheless, despite its strengths, it fails to completely satisfy the hunger for an impactful and intriguing assassin-thriller movie.

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American Star Review: The Cruel Predicament of an Assassin
  • Acting - 7.5/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6/10
  • Watchability - 7/10
  • Rewatchability - 5/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.